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13 Common Reasons Why Your Cat is Suddenly Scared

Cats are cute, friendly, and playful. We love them for all kinds of reasons. They’re independent, smart, shrewd, cuddly, and loyal. Of course, like most pets, they quickly become part of the family.

You know your cat’s personality more than anybody.

That’s why when something seems off, you’re probably the first person to notice. Cats can be skittish at times, but what if your cat is suddenly acting scared?

The reasons for this can be varied and may include a wide range of possibilities. For the sake of this post, we’ve listed the top 13 reasons.

The Personality of Your Cat

Every cat is as unique and interesting as the next. You can have multiple cats with similar traits, but at the core of every feline is a unique identity.

Some cat breeds are naturally calmer than others. They’re the ones that can’t wait to cuddle. There are other cats who are more independent in nature. They guys and gals may be a little harder to understand.

Shy cats will hide on a bookshelf when company comes to visit. Once they feel comfortable, they might attempt an approach only to scurry off at the slightest sound.

It’s no secret that some cats are more outgoing than others. But, if your cat is acting especially strange, there may be a reason for it.

Older cats, for example, may be experiencing age-related issues. Kittens, on the other hand, may just not feel comfortable with the world around them.

The following are the top 13 reasons why cat’s can suddenly become scared.

Pain or Injury

Cats and dogs have a built-in instinct to hide signs of pain. In the wild, a sign of weakness can leave them vulnerable. Even though our pets have been domesticated for some time now, they still retain those survival instincts.

If you notice your cat acting strangely, vocalizing, or acting suddenly aggressive towards you or others, it could be that he/she is in pain.

If your cat has recently been injured or has a sore spot, he/she may be scared or aggressive when you try to touch it.

If you find your cat hiding from you more often or notice gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and/or loss of appetite, make an appointment to see the veterinarian for a check-up.

Unfamiliar sounds can make a cat nervous infographic.

A History of Chronic Stress

Chronic stress in a cat doesn’t mean that you’ve been a bad mom. Stress can be defined as anything from long-term pain, underling illness, recent surgery, or even a recent trip.

Surgery, for example, can be very stressful for a cat.

Getting your cat to the veterinarian usually means a car trip (which they usually fear). Then there are the sights and sounds of other animals at the clinic. It’s a lot for a cat to swallow.

Unfortunately, removing them from the situation doesn’t immediately relieve the stress. In some cases, it may take your cat several days for the signs of excess stress to disappear.

Tips & Tricks

When bringing your cat to the veterinarian, use a pet carrier that can be secured in the seat.

The less moving around the crate does, the more secure your cat will fear. Some cats respond well to having a towel or light blanket draped over the sides of the crate.

Some veterinarians recommend using a product like Feliway Classic to help soothe cats and kittens. It should never be sprayed directly on your cat. The best way to use it is to spray it on your cat’s bedding or carrier pad.

Never spray it into the crate while your cat is in there.

Find out how it works at Feliway Classic How it Works

Feliway spray for anxious cats

Moved to a New Home

If you moved, your cat could be scared because of a new environment.

It’s a good idea to let your cat explore and get to know the new house on his/her own terms. Don’t worry if you’ve already moved and your cat is experiencing signs of distress. The important thing is to make sure he/she has a safe place they can call their own.

Cats like to crawl into high spaces that are hidden from public view. Make sure he/she knows where to find the litter box and toys.

Tips & Tricks

Believe it or not, your cat will feel more comfortable in a safe place on his/her own. As long as she has some familiar scents around, she’ll be just fine. Be patient and let your cat explore on their own terms.

If you don’t already have one, you might want to consider a cat “condo”. Cats love that they can hide away in their own little space without being bothered. They love that they can scratch to their heart’s content while climbing and testing out all the different levels.

cat condo

There’s a New Cat In Town (or in the house!)

Cats are territorial animals, so they may not get along right away.

If you brought in a new cat, your old cat might not eat because he’s afraid of the newcomer.

New cats should be introduced slowly to each other, and it can take days or even weeks for them to relax and eat normally. If you have a new cat, talk to your veterinarian about introducing him slowly to your old cat so that your cats can live peacefully together.

Loud Noise

Cats are much more sensitive to sounds than humans are. Loud, sudden noises such as thunder can cause a cat to become extremely scared.

Even though we hear a sound as being far away, the cat can still listen to it and feel close by.

If your cat has been exposed to loud noises, he/she may want to escape. Make sure your doors and windows are closed but allow your cat to find a safe space within the home. That might be under a bed or perched high atop a cat condo (like the one pictured above).

You Bring in a Child

If you have pets, be sure to prepare them for the arrival of your little one. Some cats won’t bat an eye and other cats will be especially curious.

Remember, your cat was probably getting a lot of attention before the arrival of your little one. Understandably, a new baby is going to take up a lot of your energy and time. Your cat may feel a little left out.

Don’t be surprised if your cat suddenly hides or acts differently. Cats aren’t used to babies and their noises, smells, and movements.

All it takes is a little time and patience for your cat to come around.

Just remember that as your baby grows into a toddler, it’s important to teach him/her not to hit or scare the cat on purpose. Toddlers see cats as moving toys. Unfortunately, this can make a skittish cat worse.

You Introduce a New Pet in the House

Having another pet in the home can be exciting, especially if your cat has been alone for a while.

But before you bring another pet into the house, it is vital to learn how to introduce your pets. If you don’t correctly introduce your two pets, it can cause problems and ultimately make your cat scared of the other animal.


Another common cause of sudden fear in cats is aging.

As cats get older, they may develop cognitive dysfunction, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Senile cats may startle easily. They may become confused and disoriented. They may even forget where they are or who they are. This can lead to aggressive behavior and fearful behavior because the cat is trying to defend itself from what it thinks are attacks.

When They Heard Something You Didn’t

Cats often seem to startle or get scared at nothing in particular.

Your cat may have heard a sound you didn’t or sensed an atmospheric change. If this happens, you may see a sudden change in their body language.

Cats are also sensitive to changes in their environment and reacting to something you’re entirely unaware of. Their acute hearing enables them to hear high-frequency sounds.

They can listen to even higher sounds than those made by bats and mice.

Your Cat Can’t Hear or See Well

As cats age, their senses begin to dull.

Feline vision is most affected by age, but hearing can also become more complex.

A cat that suddenly becomes less responsive to people and other pets may have lost hearing. Pet owners should monitor their pet’s vision and hear over time.

If a cat seems especially sensitive to sound or touch. It may be more challenging for the animal to use these senses.

Some cats will let out a yowl when they hear a loud sound, while others will sit still and not respond at all.

Cats need a quiet place to relax infographic.

Change in Diet

One of the common causes of cat’s anxiety is changing diet.

A change in diet can cause some cats to experience digestive upset, leading to diarrhea or vomiting. The feeling of being unwell may cause your cat to react fearfully.


According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter US animal shelters each year. Of those, 3.2 million are cats.

Pet “problems” are the most common reason that owners rehome their pets. Issues were defined as:

  • problematic behaviors
  • aggression
  • health problems

Not all shelter cats come from abusive situations. However, if they do, it will take time to establish trust.

It’s important to understand that your cat will not suddenly become trusting overnight. You need to take small steps and be patient.

If you do not know the history of your cat, sudden fear may result from an illness or injury. If your cat is experiencing pain, it could be fearful of anything that causes sudden movement near or around its body.

You’ll want to consult a veterinarian to diagnose and treat the underlying condition.

Before You Go

We thought you might be interested in some of the hand-picked posts below. Check these posts out before you move on.

5 Ways to Get German Shepherds and Cats Behaving Like Family

The 4 Important Core Vaccines Your Indoor Cat Requires

Unfamiliar Scents

Cats are sensitive to unfamiliar scents. If your cat is scared all of a sudden, it may be reacting to a new odor.

Try to identify any potential sources. For example, did you recently use a new cleaning product? Did a friend bring over a pet that isn’t familiar in your home?

A cat’s sense of smell is many times stronger than ours. So, because something doesn’t smell overpowering to cat owners, it doesn’t mean it isn’t unpleasant or even frightening to the cat.

Overall, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a fearful cat, and there are often multiple factors at play.

If you’re concerned about your cat’s unexpected change in behavior, speak with your veterinarian.

Get a Quick Consult Without Leaving Your Home

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If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent your fair share of time worrying about your pet’s health. You spend all of your time looking for answers on your own, when all you really had to do was click a button and talk to a legit doctor.

Talk to a Vet Online FOR FREE

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Always seek veterinarian care when unusual behavior persists. If your cat or dog is showing any signs of pain or illness, contact a veterinarian for advice.

Cats can experience anxiety for any number of reasons. It could be a passing occurrence, or it could signal an underlying health condition.

Now that you’re aware of some common feline triggers, you can take the time to assess your own situation and help calm your feline friend.

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