While cats are notoriously hard to read, there’s nothing more bewildering to cat owners than having what was once their closest animal companion suddenly become so afraid of their presence.
Cats make one of the best animal companions, and just watching my cat be cute and sassy brightens even my darkest days. But, suddenly going from family to strangers is one transition that will have you worried sick. I know firsthand how that feels because this is precisely what I went through with my cat, Sophie. That’s why I decided to investigate the issue to understand further why it happens in the first place. Doing so, I discovered so many things that I’d love to share with you.
Is your cat suddenly afraid of you or any member of your family, and you don’t know why this is happening or how to fix this? Then you’ve come to the right place for answers.
Signs That Your Cat Is Afraid of You
While I stated earlier that cats are difficult to read, you definitely can’t miss it when your cat suddenly becomes afraid of you. Here are some of the common signs to look out for that mean she doesn’t see you the same.
1. Decreased Grooming
Cats love to look and feel pretty good all the time, and they reportedly spend between 30 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves. Decreased grooming tends to occur when your cat is ill or suffering from too much stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, some cats don’t know how to react to stressors, so they stop grooming altogether.
2. Reduced Social Interactions
Cats are not all too popular for wanting too much social interaction, but when a cat that loves you suddenly stops wanting to interact with you and is always looking away or hides from you all the time, then you’ll know that there’s a problem.
3. She Bites, Hisses Or Growls
Cats can be a little aggressive when they’re scared of you or frightened by someone or something in the house. While experts believe that biting is expected behavior in kittens, grown cats who have lived with you for years shouldn’t be biting you. Biting, hissing or growling are clear signs of resentment from your cat. There are particular cases when cats can bite due to overstimulation, whether physical, auditory, or olfactory. But if your feline friend bites you when you are trying to approach it, that’s bad news.
4. Lowered Horizontal or General Lowered Tail
Cats use their tails for various purposes, and a low-hanging horizontal tail means kitty is in a state of fear. Los-Angeles based certified cat behaviorist Russell Hartstein said that cats use their tails not just for balance but as an outlet to express emotions, moods. So keep an eye out for this because the lower your cat’s tail is, the more stressed your cat is. If you want to understand your cat much better, you can pretty much know your cat’s mood just by looking at its tail.
5. Holding Ears Down and Sideways
With 32 muscles in each of her ears, a cat’s ears are also excellent indicators of its mood, and a scared cat will always have its ears pointing downward and sideways whenever it’s around you. Kitty’s ears will be turned sideways and lay down flat against her head when she’s scared. You can gauge how scared or anxious she is by how flat her ears are.
6. Shaking, Pacing, and Crouching
A common sign of fear or a cat that’s afraid of you is she’s always trembling or crouching around you or when you try to pet her. It gets worse if they’re friendly to everyone else except you.
Possible Causes For Cats to Suddenly Develop Fear of Their Owners
Okay, so you might have noticed some of these signs and sudden changes in your cat’s behavior, but why is this happening? Did you do something wrong? Below are some of the possible causes for your cat to suddenly become afraid of you.
1. Taking Prolonged Vacations
We sometimes need to take a break from our hectic work schedule, buy tickets to a relaxing destination and create the time to unwind. However, cat owners are faced with a bit of hassle when planning vacations. If you have recently taken any vacations and left your cat behind for weeks or months at a pet boarding facility or with family and friends, that could be the reason why she’s afraid of you.
While cats are known to have good memories, this happens because cats lose their connection with their owners or don’t recognize their smell immediately once they are back. Your cat might have formed bonds with other people or just got used to taking care of herself. Unlike dogs that need human attachment and security, cats really don’t mind being on their own.
2. History of Abuse (Rescued cats)
Every cat is different and possesses unique characteristics. However, if your cat was adopted and has had a history with abusive owners, certain events may trigger these painful memories while she’s in your care. Being physically aggressive, yelling, or making loud scary, or weird noises are considered a threat by your cat, even if none of this is directed towards him or her. This should be stopped. Think about it for a second, maybe, and you did something weird or raised your voice and that may have frightened your cat. A cat that suffered abuse at an early age is usually more skittish than normal.
3. Sudden Change or Disruption in Routine
Cats are creatures of habit. From their feeding times to their playtimes and nap times, they love to have things done in a routine. For instance, cats want to be fed at regular hours. So when you get up in the morning by 5 am to feed your cat, they expect you to keep feeding them at 5 am the next day and forever. Any attempt to suddenly change or disrupt this little routine could make your cat very upset or even make her sick. If you’ve recently changed any of your cat’s routines that could be the reason for her being scared of you.
4. You Tried to Force-Feed Your Cat
I know picky eaters can be frustrating, but if you recently chased your cat around the house to try and force her to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, that could be the reason why she’s scared of you. This attempt to try to force-feed your cat is not only unsuccessful, but it also renders the opposite effect by instilling fear in your cat.
5. Presence of an Unwanted Guest
“It’s not you, it’s them” comes into play here. If your cat is suddenly afraid of you after the arrival of an unknown guest in the house, there’s a big chance that you’re not the one she’s scared of. Your cat may not be comfortable having the added presence of your guest(s) in the house, which may make her feel scared or unsafe around you.
Here’s Why My Cat Got Afraid of Me
Like I said earlier in the blog, I know firsthand how it feels to have your cat suddenly become afraid of you. It’s high up there among the worst things to experience as a cat owner.
My beautiful cat, Sophie, is a rescued cat, and as is common with rescued cats, must have been through a lot in the past. Rescued cats in particular are known to exhibit certain behaviors, particularly separation anxiety.
Sophie got scared of me after I traveled outside the country for a month and left her behind. When I returned, she maybe didn’t recognize my smell immediately and kept staring at me like I wasn’t her BFF anymore. It felt weird for sure. On top of that, a few days after my arrival I had the great idea of using a swatter to kill a mosquito, and Sophie panicked a lot, maybe that triggered something from her past. As a rescued cat, she probably got abused when she was a kitten with a swatter or something similar.
What To Do To Fix This
Regardless of the cause of the problem, I knew this was something I had to fix, and I had to do it fast. So if you’re currently dealing with a cat that’s suddenly scared of you, here’s how to fix the situation.
1. Rebuild Rapport Through Play
You may have left your cat at home alone for too long or might have triggered a past traumatic experience by yelling at her. Regardless of what made Kitty scared of you, you can always rebuild your relationship with her through play.
It’s going to be an attempt to make her fall in love with you all over again, and it’s possible. All you have to do is to employ the use of her favorite toys and create a routine that allows her to be comfortable in your presence again.
2. Create a Safe Environment
If your cat is frightened by a piece of new equipment or furniture in the house or by an unwanted guest, it’s important to try as much as you can to get rid of these disturbances.
Create a safe and loving environment for your cat to thrive, and this will stop all the hiding, biting, hissing, growling, trembling, pacing, and crouching behavior.
3. Offer Lots of Treats and New Toys
The oldest trick in the book remains one of the most effective. You can utilize treats and new toys to get any cat to warm up to you. If your cat has a history of abuse, there’s a chance that she has lost a bit of trust in you for one reason or the other. Strategically giving her treats and new toys is a way of reassuring her and rebuilding that trust.
4. Be Patient
With cats, patience is the master key. You can’t speed things up, you can’t force your cat to stop being scared of you. The only thing you can do right now is to wait in order to gain your cat’s trust again. No matter how much time it takes, your cat will eventually start to feel safe and secure around you. Being too clingy with your scared cat may make things worse.
When dealing with a scared cat, you have to keep doing the right things, keep showing her love and attention without overwhelming your cat. Eventually, she’ll warm up to you. My cat Sophie eventually did, and we now live happily ever after.