Fear And Trauma in Cats: Learn How You Can Help Your Furry Friend
Having a scared cat in the house can frustrate the owner. After all, we always want the best for our four-legged children, and when they get scared easily, their behavior can worsen, and their health becomes harmed.
With some knowledge, you can help your kitty overcome their fears to become a healthy, playful feline! If you're dealing with a scared cat, keep reading. We have created a guide with everything you need to know to help him.
Do cats get scared easily?
Each pet has a personality, and it can be challenging to attribute a similar trait to all of them. However, a person who has a scared kitten may wonder: are kittens naturally scared?
As cats are predators accustomed to the difficult life of the wild, they tend to be constantly "on alert."
However, this doesn't mean that all our furry friends are scared, but they prepare to attack or defend themselves whenever necessary. Cats are always on the lookout, even when they walk quietly to the food pot.
However, this aspect should not influence the sociability of the pet. If a cat shows insecurity or aggression or even disappears for long periods of the day, maybe he has behavior problems.
Detecting a scared cat
Suppose you're not sure if your cat is scared or just a little more shy, don't worry. If a cat is afraid of its owner or other people, it will behave differently, with unusual behavior towards felines. Watch out for some signs.
- Escaping and disappearing
Cats are independent animals, and many enjoy being petted only at certain times of the day. However, it is not common for a cat to run away at the sight of a person, especially a family member. If the pet runs to avoid any human contact and spends long moments of the day hidden, he may be feeling afraid.
- Being aggressive
Kittens are pets with many characteristics of their wild ancestors. However, a pet's aggression towards its family or strangers is a warning sign.
On the other hand, a healthy cat may not like visitors but prefers to hide rather than attack. So be aware if your cat starts to fight with people or even with other pets.
Signs of Feline Aggression:
Everyone knows that cats, especially younger ones, love to play. However, knowing how to recognize the difference between healthy play and feline aggression is necessary. Among the main signs of an aggressive cat, it is worth highlighting:
- When he attacks the owner;
- If the cat is growling at others,
- Cat scratching or biting visits.
It is also essential to understand that pets have their personality and can behave differently. Some cats can be shy and suspicious, but that doesn't mean they’re aggressive.
- Peeing in the wrong place
Cats are practically born knowing how to look for the litter box. So, when a cat makes a mistake when going to the bathroom, it's a sign that something is wrong. In addition to their needs, felines also use urine to mark territory, something typical when they feel threatened.
If you find pee stains on walls, objects, and furniture, you may have a scared cat. So be aware of the signs and smells of urine around the house.
- Strange body positions
Pets have some ways of communicating, such as meowing and body position. A scared kitten or even an adult cat can assume two different postures.
The cat is frightened and submissive when its ear is down, its body retracted, and close to the ground. If its fur bristles, legs are stretched out, and the tail is up, the cat is scared and ready to attack. Watch out for these signs.
Although we often find the above signs in a fearful cat, we remind you that no one understands your pet better than you. By understanding your furry friend's personality, it is possible to tell when he needs help.
What can cause fear in cats?
A scared cat is startled even in the most unexpected situations. What makes the furry ones get to this place, and what are they afraid of? Depending on the pet's history, some behavior may be uncommon. Be aware of a few factors.
- Arrival at a new home
Cats are very cautious animals. Thus, when arriving in a new home, it is natural for the pet to show fear in the first few days.
Moving with cats always involves a lot of chores! Between organizing all these processes, it's natural to get stressed or irritated. However, don't forget your four-legged friend! Kittens are known for their sensitivity. The stress of an everyday situation can affect our furry friends.
Despite being smart, cats can't always understand why their owner is angry. So get organized to keep the routine during a change with cats. The time to eat, sleep, play and receive affection is essential when preparing the adaptation of pets.
- The arrival of a new pet
Kittens are territorial, meaning they can perceive a new pet's arrival as a threat to their territory. So, when adopting a dog or even another cat, the furry one can be frightened in the first few days.
The first step in adaptation is to separate a room in the house for the new pet resident, previously preparing this place with accessories such as a bed, feeder, and drinker. After preparing the new corner, let the resident pet smell the new accessories and recognize the environment, but always prevent him from using them. The goal is that he observes and begins to understand that a new resident will arrive.
- Environmental stress
As cats are so cautious, external stimuli can signify danger. Thus, a hectic environment or a lot of noise can terrify the kitty.
A tip for people who have kittens is to prepare them for future challenges. Cats have a period when they are kittens called the sensitive period or socialization period. When presented with different stimuli gradually and positively at this stage, such as contact with different people, exposure to noise associated with playing and eating, transportation in the car, and contact with other animals, they grow into more confident adult animals. They will also react more positively to possible stressors.
- Past traumas
Many of the adopted pets went through difficult times before getting a new home. Some need time to understand that humans and other pets can be friends, not threats.
The above factors can get a cat scared.
However, keep in mind that even a healthy cat can be scared in some situations. Cats fear surprises, such as fireworks, horns, or falling objects.
How to help a scared cat
If your cat is scared for no reason and you ask yourself, "why is my cat afraid of me?" don't worry! With proper care, it's easy to help your pet. Follow some guidelines and create a healthy environment for your four-legged child to feel more comfortable! Some of our tips include:
- Allowing adaptation
Cats, by nature, are fearful. So, for your friend to feel safe, he must explore his home. Allow him to explore and get accustomed by letting it walk freely around the house and verify that there is nothing to fear.
- Avoiding stress
Due to environmental stress, your cat fears living in a bustling space. Preventing your cat from living in a bustling area is crucial. It will bring many benefits to its health.
- Taking it easy
It takes time for a cat to get used to a new situation. The pet can get traumatized by forced unwanted affection or contact and become even more fearful! Make the approaches calmly and respect your friend's time and space.
Respecting its boundaries, having positive body language, and trying to get closer to him through games or food he likes are effective tools. These will help put his fear aside and make him feel safe enough to be part of the family.
The primary and most important thing is to remember that you must follow your cat's time; the kitten has its own time until it feels comfortable. It may take days, weeks, or longer for your cat to feel secure enough to join the rest of the family and explore the rest of the house.
- Using positive reinforcement
While punishment can cause fear, stress, and even an aggressive attitude in our cat, positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to stimulate your four-legged child. Whenever your friend overcomes a fearful situation, reward him with a treat and affection. Soon, he will realize that there is nothing to fear.
- Considering pheromones
Finally, pheromones are resources that can help. These products, easily found in specialty pet stores, simulate an odor similar to the ones cats leave when rubbing against objects.
Some situations that are usually solved with the product include:
- Aggressive behavior: aggression is often associated with insecurity. With pheromones for cats, the pet will feel safer and, consequently, remain calmer;
- Peeing out of place: pee is also a form of territory marking. Using the pheromone, the pet will think it has already marked that space and avoid peeing again;
- Stressful situations: changes, new family members, or the arrival of a new pet can upset a kitty. Pheromones can help it calmer and safer.
Thus, the pet will feel more comfortable in an environment. With its mark everywhere, the four-legged friend realizes there is nothing to be afraid of and can walk around the house more confidently.
Many cats don't play with toys, especially if they've never had them. It takes time for them to get start, but when they do it can help reduce nervous energy.
If you find a toy your cat likes (e.g., a hunting toy, balls, etc.), make sure you have plenty of them. When cats play a lot, it's a good sign that they expend nervous energy. It's also good to help them engage in interactive games during regular times of the day, such as bedtime. 15 minutes is enough to burn energy and build a bond.
You can try:
Scratching Posts - Make sure you have scratch posts and boxes around the house. This is a good cat stress reliever.
Cat Trees – A scared cat can benefit from a high cat condo. This gives them a place to retreat and still check out their surroundings. Cats feel safer being up high.
How to Improve the Environment for a Scared Cat
A scared cat needs to feel safe, not only in with you but also in its surroundings. That's why you should look for a space where he feels comfortable and calm, away from noise and stimuli that can disturb him and trigger his fear.
The ideal is to prepare a "nest" in a quiet place where the cat can take refuge without being disturbed. It must be a sacred place for him; therefore, the family must never try to force him out of there. Their bed, food and water bowls should be there too. Place their litter box away from the food.
When introducing your furry friend to the rest of the family, take your time and do it one by one so that he gets used to everyone's sounds and smells. Under no circumstances should you force the cat to show affection from the start; this bond must be built with patience when dealing with a fearful cat.
In addition to the above precautions, it is important to ensure that pets with behavior problems should have veterinary assistance. The specialist will be able to analyze if something is wrong with the cat's health and monitor its evolution.
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