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Why Is My Cat Scared All Of A Sudden? (Reasons Why Cats Get Scared and Skittish)

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: June 25, 2022 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: May 9, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones
Why is my cat scared all of a sudden

If you are a cat owner, such a situation might be familiar to you. Your cat is lying next to you and then suddenly bursts out of the room. 

I bet you have thought, why is my cat scared all of a sudden? I know I have...on many occasions

Such a strange behavior change can make you wonder what scared your cat so much?

There are several reasons why cats get scared all of a sudden.

This reaction might be linked to a change in the cat's environment, a loud noise, a new family member, pain, or a medical condition

The cause of your cat being a "scaredy-cat" could be a rather mixed bag. 

Such things include phobias, cat anxiety, separation anxiety, a new home, signs of illness, and all the way through to chronic stress. So a varied bunch of cat behavior indeed.

Or 'Tiddles' could just be, inherently, a timid cat.

In this post, we'll talk you through the most common reasons behind “why is my cat so skittish” and offer tips on how to help your beloved pet get rid of fear.

The Reasons a Cat Gets Scared

A Sudden Fright

So, you are thinking why is my cat acting scared all of a sudden? A lot of the time it  is simply down to an object or a negative experience that has scared them. 

And that can be varied! 

It can be a plate falling on the floor and breaking, a spider crawling on the wall, or a loud clap of thunder. 

If the thing seen or heard by your cat is unexpected for it, it can take fright and hide. 

You will notice your kitty is scared if its hair goes up and it raises its tail. 

If the source of fear goes away, your cat might recover from the shock within a couple of minutes. 

Sometimes, though, your cat may become anxious and depressed and have trouble getting out of this state on its own. 

You will have to take it to a vet who will prescribe anti-anxiety medication and give you tips on how to reduce the fear in your kitty.

A Change in Their Environment

Cats like things the way they are. A change in a cat's routine or a new environment can make them feel unwell and scared and they will display fearful behavior.

You might have hung a new painting on the wall, replaced the old wallpaper with a different color, or decorated the house for Christmas. 

Even if it's a minor change, your cat will more than likely be the first to notice it. While some cats get used to the modification with time, others will fall into depression. 

In that case, you will be better off removing the new decorations to make your feline feel better.

why is my cat acting scared all of a sudden

A New Cat in The House 

Bringing a new cat into the house might not be good news for your furry friend. 

Let's start with the premise that cats don't like changes in their living environment. So a new member of the family can make them feel uncomfortable. 

Then, a new cat means competition. 

Your kitty will understand that it will have to fight for your attention and possibly for cat food and a sleeping spot with the new cat. 

A feline that is larger in size might especially scare your furball as it knows that it might lose the battle easily. 

Aside from larger adult ones, your cat might feel uncomfortable with a kitten too. While it may be used for adult and old cats, the little kitten might surprise it.

Truth be told, not all cats dislike the idea of taking a new feline into the house. 

If they spend most of their time alone, they will be endlessly happy knowing that they will have a new companion. 

Since cats are social creatures, they can easily create friendship bonds. There might be, though, a period of testing at the beginning where the cats will behave skeptically and be cautious towards each other. 

As soon as they understand that the other cat is harmless, they will start to enjoy more time together.

A Newborn Baby in The House

Similarly to a new cat, a newborn baby can cause distress to your cat. If it's your first baby, the cat will be especially scared. 

They will not be used to this small new person being in the house!

Can you blame them? We humans aren't used to them either! 

They may run away and hide when hearing the baby crying or the baby monitor's alarm going off. When you bring your new child into the house, you'll notice that the cat will try to keep away from him or her. 

Fortunately, your feline friend will get used to the new family member quickly and they may even become good friends.

A New Animal in the House

Do you plan to expand your family with a dog or a bird? 

Your cat might not be happy with this news. Just like with a new baby or cat, a new pet might scare your kitty. 

Let's say, you decided to bring a dog into the house. Since most cats are afraid of dogs due to their larger size, your cat will be shocked to see the new family member entering the front door. 

And this is an understandable reaction. 

After all, they see this as their territory being invaded.

Even if you introduce a new puppy, there is no guarantee your kitty will get along with it. In the first days, you may notice your cat retreating to a corner or hiding in a safe place. It will be more passive than usual and may even lose appetite. It will constantly avoid any encounter with the dog.

You should expect similar behavior with other pets. 

Cats love to be the only ones, who receive all the attention from their human parents

And when a new pet arrives, they get jealous, knowing that their owner will have to care for the new pet as well. 

So even if it's a smaller pet that is prey by nature, like a rodent or a rabbit, your cat will get upset. 

It's worth noting though that cats are less jealous of animals that are not handled, like fish or birds.

Here are some behavioral changes your cat may display with the arrival of the new pet:

1. The new pet may make different noises. Since they won't sound familiar to your cat, they may scare it.

2. The new addition will release specific smells. Your cat will want to explore them. So be careful and watch out for your cat so that it doesn't launch an attack on the fish tank or birdcage.

3. Your cat will get less attention from you as you will have to care for the new pet as well. If you get a bunch of fish, a turtle, or other animals that are not handled, your cat will continue to get most of your attention.

4. Different types of new food will appear in the house. Your kitty may want to taste them so keep a watchful eye on it. Greedy eyes and tum! 

Cat Gets Scared

Cat Fights or Kitty Bullying

When cats are alone in the room, they might get naughty. They can do things they wouldn't do in the presence of their owner. 

For example, teasing, hissing, and cat fighting each other, if you have two or more cats. 

So, if you see one of your felines dashing out of the nearby room visibly agitated, there might have been some bites, a kitty battle, or some sort of bullying act taking place.

If your felines don't get along, or there is a cat that permanently taunts the other one, tries to separate them. 

Keep their beds and playing areas in different rooms so they don't meet so often. 

Cat in Pain

If your cat gets scared all of a sudden and tries to hide, it might be related to a pain sensation it has just felt. 

Cats are not capable to understand what is pain and why it hurts. So when the pain hits them, they will get into a panic and try to escape the unpleasant sensation by running away. 

Escaping the room in fear is not enough, though, to make you understand that your feline is in pain. There are many other health reasons a cat can behave this way. 

That's why you should look for other signs that confirm that the feline is struggling with physical pain.

First of all, if the pain is in the limbs, your cat will experience visible difficulties running and walking. 

Limping and taking an abnormal posture can clearly suggest that your kitty struggles. 

Also, they usually get lethargic, engage in excessive vocalization, and avoid socializing with others.

Sight or Hearing Issues in Cats

Cats with a sight or hearing impairment can get startled by things around them. 

If your feline has trouble seeing, it will notice an object only when it gets close to it. Seeing the object all of a sudden can scare your cat. 

Hearing issues may also lead to your kitty getting startled and running away in fear. For example, if another cat is approaching the impaired one from behind, it will get scared because it doesn't suspect that its buddy is there.

It's more difficult to understand whether or not your furry pal has a sight problem.

Detecting Kitty Impairments

Blow some soap bubbles in their direction and gauge their reaction. 

Most puss-cats love the bubble game! 

However, If the kitty doesn't turn its head in your direction, it's highly likely that it simply didn't them. 

While home tests may help you spot a sight impairment in your cat, it's always better to address a vet to confirm the diagnosis. 

With hearing it's easier. If the cat is not paying attention to you while you are talking and to other loud sounds, it might have lost its hearing gift. 

Though, a vet visit and confirmation is needed. Sadly, sight and hearing loss in cats cannot be treated. 

All you can do to help your kitty is to find a new way of interacting with it so that you don't scare it.

why is my cat so skittish

Read this next: Why Is My Cat Limping?

Scared by Something Outside

Cats do love looking out the window. If your kitty lays on the windowsill admiring the outside scene, then all of a sudden runs away, there might be something outside that scared it. 

It can be a storm, a squirrel jumping from branch to branch, or the neighbor trimming the bushes with his loud device. 

Such situations might be quite traumatic for some cats as they refuse to stay around the window for a long time after their unpleasant experience. 

You may need to contact your vet to get advice on how to remove your cat's fear and make it want to go outside again. 

How To Treat an Anxious Cat

If fear persists in your cat for a long period of time, there are some things you can do to help your furry friend get away from it.

  • Avoid making major modifications to your cat's environment. If you have changed something in your house, try to keep the cat in an area that hasn't undergone any change.
  • Provide your cat with its own space so it has a safe place to retreat when it feels in danger.
  • If it's an event outside that scares your feline, like fireworks or a storm, shut the curtains and play relaxing music to calm your pet down.
  • Reduce the things that strike fear into your cat. For example, do not play the music and TV loudly, and use a home appliance less often if its noise scares your cat.
  • Use stress and anxiety medications prescribed by your vet.
  • Take your cat to the veterinarian to get it checked for other possible health issues. There might be an underlying condition that makes your kitty scared all of a sudden.
  • Spend more time with your cat. Pet it more often and give it the love and care it needs. Allow it to snuggle up next to you as it will give it a sense of security.

Each cat has a coping method that works best for them. If a method doesn't give the desired results, try a new one until you find something that helps your cat get rid of fear.

Why Is My Cat Scared All Of A Sudden? The Verdict

I hope this answers your 'why is my cat scared all of a sudden question. As you can see, there is a variety of reasons why your kitty has become a little nervous or anxious about something.

You have to remember, that cats are incredibly sensitive. They literally have ultrasonic hearing, and x-ray vision, and possess superhuman reactions. 

No wonder they can appear a little 'on edge' at times.

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.