Causes and Solutions for Skittish Cats
Is Your Cat Skittish?
There are so many things that could possibly scare animals: loud noises, strange or new objects in a familiar home, an unfamiliar home, even unfamiliar or new pets. Here are the most common causes for a skittish cat, and ways to help make your cat more comfortable and sociable!
1. A New Home
If you are introducing a new cat into your home, he may sometimes be hesitant to take a look around. The best thing to do is to leave him be. We kept Prince Fredward in his cat carrier for a couple of hours so he could just watch and listen. Then we let him wander. It's important to let your cat get used to his new surroundings and smells slowly.
If you already have other pets, then double-check that they are locked in a room so that your new pet can become acquainted with his new home undisturbed. We have a small cocker spaniel, so she was just confined to one of our bedrooms.
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Is your cat a scaredy cat?
If your cat was neglected or ignored at their previous home, they will expect the same treatment from you. This could lead to your cat being shy and unsociable. The best thing you can do for your cat is to make sure she always has food, water, a clean litter box, toys, and a place to scratch. When she knows she can rely on you to give her what she needs, she will be more willing to play with her toys in front of you, or even to let you play with her.
3. Other Abuse
While neglect is a form of abuse, as it denies a being its needs, there are other types. Both intentionally scaring your cat or physically harming him are indeed big reasons for a skittish pet. In fact, a cat that has been abused (including neglected) may become feral because of its lack of socialization.
My family adopted a wild cat in '86. She hissed if anybody came near her, and nobody was able to pet her. She had free reign inside and out. She kept returning to the house to be fed; however, so that was a good sign.
Feral cats are a bit more difficult to socialize, as one can imagine. Some experts suggest a cage or crate so that your cat can slowly get used to what goes on in his home. He will be able to sit, watch, listen, and become familiar with your voices.
Once he becomes at least semi-used to the immediate surroundings, it's okay to move him to a larger room that will allow him to explore. Keep the cage nearby so he has somewhere to run when he wants to feel safe. Slowly expand his areas until he has free reign of the entire house. It will be a long and hard process; do not expect a quick fix.
4. Lost Cat
It is always important to keep in mind that the cat you are "rescuing" may already have a healthy and safe home! Some cats are just skittish because they know you're a stranger in a strange place, and they intend to go home after they're done mooching food. It's a good idea to keep an eye out for a while to see if the cat keeps returning and scrounges for food and if she looks well-fed or not. Can you see the cat's ribs, or is she round and filled in?
The American Humane Society Traps Feral Cats
If you think she is lost or ownerless, test how social she is. Put food out on your porch. Stay back but in sight. If the wild cat approaches easily and comes to you when called, she may already have an owner or may not have been on her own for long. Put up signs and an ad in the newspaper if you need to; this cat's owners may be looking for her!
5. Loud Noises and Fast Movements
The reason your cat may be skittish may be as simple as the fact that he doesn't like how fast you move around him or how loud it is where you live. The TV makes a particularly loud noise, and he takes off running. You jump up from your chair in excitement, and he darts under or behind something.
I can remember having my phone right next to Prince Fredward on the windowsill. It vibrated, and he literally jumped straight up into the air, back arched, claws out, just like in cartoons. Whatever the action, chances are if your cat is reacting so strongly to your loud noises and fast movements, he is not yet used to you or his surroundings.
This cat takes her time getting used to the snow. Always let your cat have the time to adjust!
Keep in Mind . . .
It is important to keep in mind that every cat acts differently. Just because your old cat loved to be rubbed on the belly does not mean that your new one does. Just because an older cat preferred to jump up onto the counters doesn't mean that every one of your cats will expend this energy.
Because of this, pay close attention to how your cat reacts. If she jumps or is startled, chances are she doesn't like what you're doing. Do her ears go back? She doesn't like it. Does she mew loud and long? She doesn't like it. If your cat purrs, she likes it. Flicks her tail so that it is lying on top of you or touching you? She is indeed comfortable with you. There are a bunch of ways to see what your cat is and is not comfortable with; you simply need to pay attention.
Other Things to Help Settle Your Cat Down
The above list consists of specific solutions to specific problems. The following bullets may also help to calm your cat down.
- Routine: If she knows what to expect, she will become comfortable with it and fall into the routine with you.
- Treats: These are special because they are not part of the routine; plain and simple. Once you find a brand your cat likes, he will come just because he heard you shake the package.
- Patience: Your cat will do things on her own time, not yours. Always remember this. Do not force a cat, or I can guarantee you will find yourself scratched up. If you wait patiently, and sometimes with seeming disinterest, the cat will come to you if the motivation is there, (i.e., a treat in your palm).
Above all else, only take on the responsibility of a cat if you have the means. This includes enough money to buy what it needs as well as the time to spend with it. It is unfair to both you and your pet if you are unable to take care of it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Jennifer Kessner