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Helping a Fearful Cat

helping a fearful cat

Many things can cause a cat to become fearful, such as:

Lack of socialization as a kitten

Being the target of aggression by other animals

Pain and illness

Being the target of abuse

Stressful living conditions (too many cats, dirty conditions, tense family environment, etc.)

A move to an unfamiliar environment (new home, being relinquished to shelter, being rehomed, etc.)

Change in family (new owner, death, divorce, new baby, etc.)

Excessive ongoing noise

Here are some ideas to help create more security for a fearful cat:


A fearful cat feels more security if he knows he can’t be seen. There should be hiding places set up for him in all the rooms he frequents. If you want to encourage your cat to venture out from under the bed you need to set up cozy hideaway alternatives for him. “A” frame beds are great hideaways because the cat can peer out if he wishes but he knows he won’t be ambushed from behind. High-sided donut beds are also good. Cats love being able to curl up into a tight little ball and feel the sides of the bed surrounding them.

You can create homemade hideaways with cardboard boxes. Place the box on its side and one of the flaps hang down so the opening is partially covered. Line the box with a towel or cat bed for comfort.

A cat tree is a great piece of real estate for a cat, but if the cat is fearful, he may not be secure enough being so exposed on a perch. If that’s the case, choose a cat tree that has at least one semi-enclosed perch or you can place an “A” frame bed on one of the perches. Some fearful kitties actually like being on an open perch up high because it gives them more of a visible advantage. They have more warning time to see if someone is approaching. Being on the top perch of the cat tree also prevents the fearful cat from being ambushed from behind.

Interact at the Cat’s Pace

If you think you’ll be able to convince your cat to get over his fear by forcibly holding him in your arms or insisting that he interact with family members, you’re very mistaken. All that will do is severely set back the trust-building process.

One comment

  1. I am a semi-invalid. I have 3 cats. Recently, a friend’s wife was diagnosed with an “iffy” pregnancy, and the doctor recommended getting rid of their 2 cats (age 4). I volunteered to become their permanent home (or a fostering, if they decided later to want the cats back). I’ve had Loco and Nala for over a week, now; and, during normal “waking” hours, they hide under the couch, not socializing with my 3 or me. They DO come out at night; as I hear them meowing, etc. This morning, Nala was in the bedroom, playing with my Ebony. As soon as I woke up and my feet hit the floor, she was out like a shot. How can I coax them to socialize with us? Have tried treats, putting food/water under the couch and moving it out a little farther each day, to no avail.

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