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May 28, 2023 |12 min read

What to do with a “Scaredy Cat?”

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Scout’s little paw appeared from underneath the sofa, looking for the phone charger cord that dangled off the edge of the couch’s seat. His paw (blindly) reached for the wire, trying to find it.

He was scared and crouched underneath the sofa for about half an hour. My sister-in-law brought her dog with her. This was the first time we had a dog in the house. Scout was terrified.

At least we knew where Scout was. He wasn’t a very good hider, considering his paw was sneaking from underneath the sofa in plain view. But we couldn’t find his older brother, Boo. As soon as the dog had stepped inside the house’s door, Boo had disappeared.

We would have left Scout underneath the sofa to give him some space. But, the couch had a retractable seat, and we were worried someone would use it and he would get hurt. So, we parted the bottom sofa curtain to get him out, and there we found Boo too! Both kitties had hidden together, like sardines, underneath the couch seat.

Boo’s bottom faced us. Meanwhile, Scout stared at us with fearful eyes.

We couldn’t pick them up, because they would just hold on to the carpet with their claws, stubbornly trying to stay underneath the couch.

There is a reason people use the phrase “scaredy cat” to describe a frightened person. Cats can be extremely skittish creatures. Sometimes a minor thing can frighten them. That’s why it’s essential to know some common reasons a kitty becomes frightened, and how pet owners can calm their anxiousness and anxiety. But sometimes, finding the root of the problem can be challenging.

Reasons for the Fright

First, knowing what common reasons can cause a kitty to become scared is important.

Any Change

Cats are known to be creatures of habit. They thrive on routine. They like knowing when they will be fed and when their pet parents leave for and arrive from work. Routine gives them a sense of safety because they can predict what happens next.

Therefore, any kind of environmental change can create stress, leading to anxiety and fright. Here are some of the common changes that can cause a cat to become scared.

Strangers

It’s not unusual for a kitty to withdraw from a room with a houseguest. If the cat was not socialized well as a kitten, the cat becomes scared and may hide until the perceived threat disappears.

Some strangers may think it’s okay to be friendly with the cat by cuddling or petting it. However, these actions may only aggravate the cat and cause some cats to display aggressive behavior.

New Pets

Adding a new pet to the family – whether a cat, dog, or parrot – can often cause the cat to become scared. Even if the new pet is joining the home temporarily, the kitty can still become afraid. Due to the language barrier (Cats don’t understand English, and humans don’t understand “Meow Meow”), cats have no idea how long the new pet stays.

Unfamiliar Objects

New humans, new pets, and novelty objects can cause fear and aggression too. Cats don’t only fear creatures who breathe and are living. They can also fear new furniture or items that can take up a lot of space.

The size is not the only factor that can intimidate the cat. The new item also smells foreign. The strange odor can be scary.

Small Items

Sometimes, cats can become afraid of small objects too. Last year, some people thought it was funny to watch and film their cats becoming scared of cucumbers they secreted placed in an unsuspecting location. The cat would suddenly see the cucumber and jump away – fearful of what they encountered. Their cat owner’s behavior did not amuse these cats.

Cat experts say the cats are more frightened of how the vegetable suddenly appeared before them than the cucumber itself. It’s similar to how a person may try to sneak up on another person. The trick’s target isn’t as scared of the other person as much as the shock of having someone ambush him or her.

Pet pros say pet owners should avoid trying to scare their cats, because these intentional encounters could harm their health. Furthermore, the cat, who does not understand a human’s sense of humor, may not realize the human is trying to play with him. Instead, the cat may think his human is trying to be mean to him. This traumatic event can increase the anxious cat’s stress.

Loud noises

Cats also dislike loud noises and sudden movements. Like humans, cats are used to a normal sound range during their day-to-day, calm life. Therefore, they may run away to hide from the petrifying sound if they hear a sudden or loud noise. That’s why noises like fireworks can cause a cat to become more stressed. Other “terrifying” sounds for cats include doorbells, knocking, door slamming, thunder, vacuuming, or road construction. Cats may be afraid of sounds like doorbells and knocking, because those sounds usually signal a new person is coming into the house.

Wide-Open Spaces

Something pet owners may notice is that when cats run and hide, they tend to choose spaces that are snug and closed off – like under the bed, in a tight closet, or inside an empty box. Cats do not like wide-open spaces, because it makes them feel vulnerable. Remember, cats are naturally predatory creatures, and they may feel like they are being hunted in a wide-open area.


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Saying Goodbye

As creatures of habit, cats don’t like leaving home. They’ve become connected to their surroundings. The surroundings are familiar to them. The home is safe for them. Having to go to a boarding facility or being left at a family member’s or friend’s home can be a scary situation for them. The boarding facility may have the best veterinarians, but the boarding facility is nothing like home. Therefore, the cat may withdraw because it's unfamiliar with this new environment.

How to Treat the Fright

Wondering, “Is my cat happy?” or, “How to make my scaredy cat happy again?” The best advice to handle a fearful cat is to seek tips from someone who knows the kitty the best. In most cases, this person is the family veterinarian.

In the meantime, animal experts also recommend the following suggestions. However, these suggestions are only suggestions; the veterinarian knows what is best for your fur baby.

Gradual introduction

One way to help soothe a cat’s fright is through gradual introductions. Gradual introductions to everything – from inanimate objects to humans to other animals – can help ease the cat into the new way of life. The new thing, person, or creature must be introduced to the cat in increasing increments. If there is a new pet, it might be a good idea to separate the animals with a crate or screen, which would limit visual contact.

Sometimes, pet owners may want to rush the introduction to have the newcomer (whatever it/he/she is) become a daily fixture in the cat’s life. However, a rushed introduction can traumatize a scared or upset cat who needs more time to adjust. Pet owners should be able to respect a cat’s boundaries.

Blanketing the Fear

Some animal behavioral experts suggest covering a furniture piece with a blanket if the cat is afraid of a large, inanimate object, like new furniture. The veil hides the item from the cat’s view and also masks some of the object’s foreign odor.

Creating a Safe Space

Sometimes, a cat may appreciate it when pet owners provide them with a safe space away from the source of their source of fright. For instance, if a pet owner knows a guest will arrive in a few minutes, some experts say it is a good idea to place your cat in another room – away from the guests. Safe spaces are also beneficial if it’s time for house cleaning and vacuuming. In a safe room, the kitty will not have to see the large vacuum of a monster, and the walls can muffle the vacuum sounds.

Providing Hiding Spots

Sometimes, pet owners don’t know when a thunderstorm will occur or if city officials have decided to do some road work that day. Or, pet owners don’t know if someone will stop by for a surprise visit. These are unexpected events, and pet owners have no idea when these sounds occur.

Having multiple hiding spots throughout the home can make the cat more comfortable. For instance, if a cat likes hiding in high spaces, making a little bed on the wardrobe’s top shelf can ease some of the cat’s anxiety. Or simply adding skirts around chairs or tables will secure hiding spots underneath these furniture pieces. Animal experts also suggest cutting two holes in a big cardboard box and placing the box in a safe, isolated area. The cat can quickly get into and out of the box and feel secure in a space away from any horrible noise or unwanted threats.

Conquering Wide Places

Many pet owners don’t realize cats dislike open spaces. Therefore, they put the cat’s litter downstairs in the basement or their food in the laundry room. Those rooms can be too large for a cat. Instead, investigate and find the kitty’s favorite places. Then, place the cat’s food and litter box in those areas.

Early Warnings

In some instances, early alerts can also save the cat some stress. It could be helpful if the pet owner asks their guests to call them when they have arrived rather than use the doorbell or knock.

Forget Boarding Facilities

If you want to board the cat, consider hiring a pet sitter. The pet sitter can come to the house to ensure the kitty is comfortable and has food and water. The pet sitter can make sure the litter box is clean. The cat never has to leave his home.

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Conclusion

Again, the best bet is always to ask the veterinarian or the person who knows the animal the best about the best course of action to help a “scaredy cat” become a brave cat. However, understanding some tips to help a kitty with its fright is helpful.

Also, ensuring the kitty has PrettyPlease food and PrettyLitter can help because having a tasty meal and a clean bathroom will always make the kitty comfortable. And a relaxed kitty can help a scared cat become a happy kitty.

 

 

References:

  1. Best Friends. (n.d.). Cat Scared of Noise: How to Help Fearful Cats.https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/cat-scared-noise-how-help-fearful-cats
  2. DiNuzzo, E. (2023, April 10). Why Are Cats Scared of Cucumbers?Readers Digest. https://www.rd.com/article/why-cats-afraid-of-cucumbers/
  3. Kim, J. (2023, March 13). Why Do Cats Thrive On Routine? What You Need to Know!PetKeen. https://petkeen.com/why-do-cats-thrive-on-routine/
  4. PetMD Editorial. (2017, June 1). 8 Common Cat Fears and Anxieties.petMD. https://www.petmd.com/cat/slideshows/8-common-cat-fears-and-anxieties
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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.

Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-tasci-68ab815b

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