Scaredy cat - Why is your cat so nervous?
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Scaredy cat - Why is your cat so nervous?

Cats
General
Pet Psychology

So you speak to your cat kindly and encouragingly, and always treat them well and make sure that you are gentle with them. You feed them, house them and pay them attention; but your cat seems to be really nervous or timid, and just getting off the sofa too fast can cause them to flee out of the room! Why is this happening? Is there anything that can be done about it? Read on to find out.

You are new to your cat

Cats can take a long time, weeks or even sometimes months to fully settle into a new home with a new owner, and start thinking of their new home as their place and their territory. Even if your cat doesn’t hide away on their first night and is happy being petted, this does not indicate that they have settled in and are fine with everything; cats really hate change, and often, it will take a while for them to get to grips with their new life.

Give your new cat plenty of time to get used to you and your family and home, and try not to make any dramatic or sudden changes to the home during your cat’s first year with you. House moves, getting another pet, and other big upheavals should all be avoided, in order to allow your cat to get comfortable.

Your cat is not used to people

Most cats, even those that come from rehoming shelters, will be used to being around people, being handled, and being fed by humans. But this is not true for all cats, and cats that were wild or feral, or that had to fend for themselves for a significant period of time, will simply not be used to being around people in close quarters, and will tend to be very speculative about this as a result.

When a pregnant queen is brought into a shelter for rehoming, everything possible is done to begin socialising the kittens with people as early as possible, to give them the best possible chances of being rehomed. But if the queen is nervous or distrustful of people, she may well pass this onto the kittens, who may maintain a slight uncertainty or propensity to being shy for a long time after they are weaned.

Your cat has been mistreated

Obviously, cats that have been neglected or mistreated will not automatically view people in a positive light, and it can take a long time to undo the damage done to a cat by someone in their past that treated them badly.

You may never be able to find out for sure exactly what happened in your cat’s history that has made them the way that they are, but routine, consistency, and ensuring that you take every possible step to keep your cat happy and make them to feel safe and secure will go a long way towards helping them to become calmer.

Your cat is afraid of certain triggers

Your otherwise fearless hunter and bold, friendly feline may show irrational fear at the strangest of things, but commonly, noise or sudden movement can cause a fear response or nervous reactions in the cat.

Try to avoid making loud noises or suddenly getting up, or shouting, waving your arms around and other behaviours that may not be aimed at your cat at all, but that are apt to upset them.

If your cat is afraid of stimulus such as thunder and lightning, try to mute the presence of such triggers by closing the curtains and putting the radio on, which may help to calm your cat down.

Your cat feels trapped or overwhelmed

Cats naturally like to go outside, and stopping or restricting them from doing this can make them feel trapped, uncertain and insecure. This can turn into a vicious circle if your cat is so relieved to get outside that when they finally do, they do not return for a couple of days.

Providing a cat flap and making sure that your cat knows how to get in and out of it, and not restricting their access to the outdoors without good reason can help to lower your cat’s stress and anxiety levels, making them feel more comfortable in their home and so more likely to spend more time in it.

When your cat is in the house, make sure that they have a bed and hidey hole in a quiet place that is off limits to people, that they can use to retreat to when they need a break or to be on their own. Never let children, dogs or other cats invade your cat’s space or push them around, and make some areas of the home off limits to other animals if needs be.

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