How To Address Your Cat’s Fear

Most cats are relaxed and in control when life is predictable. But a surprise that causes one scared kitty to run and hide may trigger an aggressive reaction in another. Either way be careful. Butt in when feline emotions are running high and your body could suffer collateral damage.

It’s easy to misunderstand fear aggression.

  • The trigger for the instant cat-from-heck (I like to give them the benefit of the doubt) may be a strange cat or even a familiar one who smells different because of a recent visit to the doctor’s office or boarding kennel.
  • Some cats associate anxiety with a prior event like an upsetting car trip, causing a violent reaction to the cat carrier.

Helping a scared cat live with the heebie jeebies is really the same whether he becomes a feline Rambo or shrinks into a tiny ball under the bed.

  • At the time of the hair-raising event your cat needs solitude, possibly for several hours.
  • What he should not have is soothing voices and reassurance because any response to his fear will encourage more of it.

Set your cat up to succeed.

  • Prevent exposure to any stimulus that sets the behavior into motion.
  • Plug in a Feliway pheromone diffuser or mist Feliway on a towel inside the carrier.
  • A cat with frequent fear aggression can also benefit from an antianxiety medication like fluoxetine.
  • I often prescribe buspirone for the terminally petrified.

The long term win comes from gradual desensitization.

  • Using a harness and leash, a reactive cat can be brought only close enough to the scary monster to feel mild concern.
  • Small treats are used as rewards for courage.
  • Short training sessions, repeated hundreds of times, should ultimately diminish your kitty’s angst at that distance.

For the next hundred times bring nervous Nellie one baby step closer and give treats when she appears bored.

  • Then take the next baby step. Repeat, you guessed it, about a hundred of times.
  • No quick movements, no comforting tones, no direct eye contact from scary visitors and no tough love like cramming the cat into the carrier and jumping into the car.
  • Sorry, but there is no quick fix.

For human safety be sure no one chases or corners a scared kitty. Be careful with a cat who hisses, spits, arches his back, or one who stops, crouches, growls, and rolls over (self defense). Even docile cats who perceive a threat can turn nasty and strike.