Skip to Content

What scares off a cat?

Cats can be easily startled by loud noises, unfamiliar objects, and sudden movements. Understanding what frightens cats can help owners take steps to create a calm, comforting environment for their feline friends. Here are some of the main things that scare cats and tips for minimizing fear and anxiety.

Loud Noises

Cats have extremely sensitive hearing, so loud sounds like fireworks, thunder, or vacuums can be very frightening. The noise overwhelms their acute sense of hearing and they don’t understand the source of the sound. Tips for minimizing fear of loud noises:

  • Provide a safe hiding spot, like a cat condo or covered bed, when loud noises are expected.
  • Play calming music to help mask frightening sounds.
  • Use anti-anxiety wraps or pheromone diffusers to relieve stress.
  • Distract with playtime and treats.

Unfamiliar Objects

Anything new in a cat’s environment, like a piece of furniture, bag, or appliance can be scary. Cats feel safest with consistency and get anxious when their territory is changed. Tips for minimizing fear of unfamiliar objects:

  • Introduce new objects slowly while providing positive reinforcement with treats.
  • Place new objects in an area the cat doesn’t frequent at first.
  • Make sure the cat has places to perch up high to observe the new object from a safe distance.
  • Move favored toys and sleeping spots near the new object to make it seem more welcoming.

Sudden Movements

Quick gestures and movements can trigger a cat’s prey drive and make them freeze, flee, or fight. Things like fast petting, jerky games of fetch, or grabbing at a cat unexpectedly can cause fear. Tips for minimizing fear of sudden movements:

  • Approach cats slowly and calmly, avoiding quick movements.
  • Pet cats gently from head to back.
  • Never forcibly restrict a frightened cat’s movement.
  • Allow cats a hiding place they can retreat to if afraid.


Guests and visitors can stress cats out, especially if they make direct eye contact, reach for the cat, or are too loud. Your scent also changes when other people are present. Tips for minimizing fear of strangers:

  • Keep strangersIgnore the cat at first so it can observe them from afar.
  • Have visitors offer treats or play with a fishing pole toy to form positive associations.
  • Provide the cat with a hiding place like a cat tree or under furniture.
  • Put the cat in a separate room if the anxiety is too severe.

When Cats Are Most Easily Spooked

Certain situations and scenarios are more likely to frighten cats. Being aware of these helps owners be proactive about minimizing fear and anxiety. Times when cats are most easily scared include:

  • Sleeping: Cats can be startled if awoken suddenly from a deep sleep.
  • Eating: Cats feel vulnerable when eating and are easily frightened.
  • Grooming: Cats are focused inward when grooming themselves and don’t like interruptions.
  • New environments: Introducing a cat to a new home or room in the home can be scary.
  • Vet visits: The vet’s office has unfamiliar smells, sounds, and people that can frighten cats.

Being extra calm and patient with a cat during these times can prevent fearful reactions before they occur. Avoid interrupting sleep and mealtime, introduce new spaces gradually, and use calming aids for vet visits.

Short Term vs Long Term Fear

It’s important to differentiate between short term, momentary frights versus chronic, long term fears in cats. For example:

  • Short term: Being startled by a loud noise, then recovering and going back to normal shortly after.
  • Long term: Remaining extremely frightened of the vacuum cleaner every time it’s used due to a past negative experience.

Short term fears are part of normal cat behavior, but chronic, irrational fears that persist over long periods are problematic. If a cat is unable to recover from something that frightened them, or the fear gets progressively worse over time, talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication and training.

Signs a Cat Is Afraid

Cats communicate fear through body language and behaviors. Recognizing the signs allows owners to calmly intervene before the cat becomes more frightened. Signs a cat is scared include:

  • Puffed up fur
  • Crouching down
  • Folding ears back
  • Tucked tail
  • Growling or hissing
  • Swatting
  • Freezing in place
  • Darting away suddenly
  • Hiding
  • Trembling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Yowling
  • Urinating out of litter box

If you notice these body language cues or behaviors, do not force interaction with the frightened cat. Give them space, keep noise and activity levels low, and let them come to you when they feel safe.

How to Calm a Fearful Cat

If you have a scaredy cat, there are many ways to help them feel more relaxed and comfortable in your home. Useful tips for calming fearful cats include:

  • Establish a predictable daily routine with consistent feeding times, playtime, grooming, etc.
  • Make sure the cat has access to hiding places and high perches.
  • Use calming pheromone diffusers and anti-anxiety supplements.
  • Play calming music to mask frightening noises.
  • Consider Prozac or other medication if anxiety is severe.
  • Keep litter box, food, water, and bedding far from noisy appliances.
  • Introduce changes gradually.
  • Provide positive reinforcement with treats during scary situations.

Remaining patient and letting fearful cats move at their own pace is key. Forcing interactions will only make cats more fearful.

Should I Comfort a Scared Cat?

It’s natural to want to soothe and comfort a cat when they’re afraid. But in many cases it can backfire and make them more fearful. Why?

  • Petting sends the message there is reason for concern
  • Picking up a scared cat removes their escape option
  • You are unpredictable when you’re worried about them

Instead, give fearful cats space and let them seek you out when ready. Offer treats, playtime, or lap access to build positive associations with the once-scary situation. Stay calm, take deep breaths, and give verbal reassurance.

Consult a Vet for Severe Anxiety

If a cat’s fearfulness seems irrational, excessive, and unresolved, take them to the vet. They can check for underlying health issues that may contribute to anxiety. Treatment options for severe cat anxiety include:

  • Pheromone therapy
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Supplements
  • Calming aids like Thundershirts
  • Behavior modification training

Getting professional help ensures your cat’s quality of life is not severely impacted by chronic fear and anxiety. With patience and treatment, even extremely timid and scaredy cats can become more confident.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats get scared so easily?

Cats get scared easily due to their natural instincts, sensitive senses, and tendency to prefer predictability. As predators, cats are hard-wired to detect and react to potential dangers in their environment. Their sharp senses like hearing and smell also make them more alert to stimuli humans may not perceive. Cats also prefer consistency in their surroundings. Anything unfamiliar puts them on high alert.

Do cats get scared of dogs?

Yes, many cats are innately afraid of dogs due to their predatory instincts and vocal loudness. Cats and dogs can co-exist peacefully but slow introductions and keeping dogs calm is key. Providing cats with vertical escape routes and safe hiding places also helps them feel less threatened.

Why does my cat keep peeing when scared?

When frightened, cats may lose control of their bladder as an involuntary reaction. They may also spray urine to mark territory they feel is unsafe. Make sure litter boxes are available in quiet, low-traffic areas. Use calming aids to relieve anxiety and clean soiled areas thoroughly with enzyme cleaners.

Can cats be scared to death?

While it is extremely rare, cats can be scared to the point of cardiac arrest or death in cases of severe shock or panic. More often, chronic fear causes detrimental physical effects like suppressed immune systems, organ damage from stress hormones, and avoiding food/water. Get severely fearful cats medical treatment.

How do I stop my cat from being scared of everything?

For cats fearful of many normal things, use calming pheromones, medication, independent exposure therapy, and positive reinforcement. Start introductions super slow. Reward calm behavior in the presence of a previously feared item or situation. Build confidence by showing the cat there is nothing to be afraid of.


Cats are natural scaredy cats thanks to their strong survival instincts, sensitive senses, and preference for consistency. Loud sounds, quick movements, unfamiliar objects, strangers and more can frighten felines. Be aware of the signs of fear in cats and provide reassurance through routines, hiding spots, toys and treats. For severe anxiety, consult your vet for solutions like behavior training and medication. With time and positive associations, even the most timid cat can gain confidence and feel safe in their environment.