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Category: Cat Veterinary
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Why is my cat skittish and afraid of everything?

Resolved Question:

Why is my cat so skittish and afraid of everything? I can't even pet him sometimes because he's so jumpy. Any sudden moment makes him leap with fear. What can I do to help him calm down?

Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Cerecita replied 11 years ago.

How old is your cat and how long have you had him?

Have there been any changes in the house lately, like new carpeting, new furniture, new appliances, have you painted? Are there any other pets in the household?

Is there any construction work or other 'loud' noises occurring outside recently? Do you live on a major road where there may be loud car/truck/motorcycle horns and/or noises?

Some cats are just more skittish than others. Some are very mellow and others are just 'fraidy cats; different personalities, just like people.

If this is how your cat's always been, it's probably just part of his make up. If he was calmer and suddenly became skittish, that would bear checking out with the vet to make sure there is no medical basis for this behavior. There may have been something that scared him pretty badly in the recent past.

Do you know anything about his past before you got him? It's possible that he had a very rough life or was abused and is distrustful of humans.

To make him feel as comfortable as possible, leave him alone while he's sleeping or resting and wait for HIM to approach YOU for attention or affection. Don't make any sudden movements or noises when near him. Provide him with a cat bed (you can make one if you don't want to buy one--take a nice sized cardboard box, large enough for him to stretch out in, with sides neither too low nor too high, and line it with an couple of old towels or a blanket) and place it in an out of the way place where it's quiet and away from the traffic of the household. Show him the box and soon he might want to sleep there. If he feels safe in that spot, it may lessen his skittishness.

Also, if you can provide him with a kitty condo or tall scratching post with a 'shelf' on top, he'll feel secure high up and in a 'hidey hole' of his own.

Try to speak softly when you're around him, and show him as much love as he'll tolerate without getting nervous, and hopefully little by little, he may become less skittish and calmer.

There's also a product you might want to try; it's called 'Feliway' and it's used to calm stressed cats. It comes in a spray form and also a plug-in diffuser, like a plug-in air freshener (but it has no scent to humans). You can buy it in major pet supply stores, online, or some vets carry it.
For more info, see this website:

Good luck with your little boy!

Customer: replied 11 years ago.

To answer your questions,

1) He is 1 yr old and we've had him since he was about 4 weeks old. We found him and his 3 siblings in our back yard.

2)No changes in the house or settings. He lives with my chihuahua, 1 of his brothers, and my older cat. No construction or outside noises near the house.

He is spayed and declawed and originally was a normally behaved cat. He has just recently (in the past 4-5 month) become very afraid of everything. He can be sitting at your feet and if you even slightly pick up your foot to move it, he jumps a mile high. He hides when strangers come in the house, he does not like to be petted much, but otherwise is a very well behaved, but quiet cat. I can't recall anything happening that would have terrified him so. Help - advise?

Expert:  Cerecita replied 11 years ago.

Hi again, and thank you for the additional information! : )

Each cat has a different personality and yours may just be very sensitive to any noise/motion and be more of a scaredy cat. Most cats do jump when there's a slight movement near them if they're sleeping, or dozing and not fully alert; it's the startle reflex. How old was he when he was neutered and declawed? The declawing may have something to do with it, but if you feel he's had a personality change to being afraid of everything, when he wasn't before, it would bear checking him out medically, at the vet.

The product I suggested--Feliway--should help under the circumstances you mentioned, and if need be, the vet may feel an anti-anxiety medication could help, if all else fails. I'd try all other alternatives before considering an anti-anxiety drug.

At this other website with information re: Feliway, they also discuss and sell 'flower essences'. "Rescue Remedy" is used to calm stressed cats (and people). Bach's Flower Essence Remedies (and other brands) can be found in natural food stores and places like Whole Foods Markets. Check it out, and follow the dosing information regarding pets:

If your cat is acting normally in all other ways (eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, etc.), this just may be his personality and try to do your best to make him feel safe and secure at all times. If he's not a cuddle-bug and doesn't like being petted or held, just love him on his own terms. He might outgrow this as he gets older, or this just might be who he is. Are you sure the other animals are not threatening to him when you're not around? That's a possibility to consider, also. Could a frog, lizard or insect have come into the house and frightened him? I don't know where you live, but I'm in South Florida, and my sister's cat is also skittish. She would slink into the bathroom or refuse to go in at all, to use the litterbox. We think a 'creature' may have gotten into the house and hid near her litterbox, next to the toilet and scared her a lot. Sometimes she's fine, and then she goes through periods where she acts like I the times she does this, we find nothing 'scary' in the bathroom! So, you can never tell what your cat may have seen or experienced that may have caused this recent skittish behavior.

I do hope my suggestions prove helpful and he begins to relax a little more!

Keep me posted on how he's doing? Thanks!

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