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
Being the target of abuse
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.