Cat Anxieties, Fears & Phobias
Understanding cat anxiety
Cats are calm animals. Humans have formed great bonds with our feline friends and our fastidious, occasionally feisty companions accept most situations and events that our combined lives encounter. On occasion, however, cats may experience a fearful reaction, an anxious response or even a full-blown phobia about a particular situation..
Fear, Anxiety & Phobias - natural behaviours
It is normal to feel fear. Fear is primarily a warning signal, a distressing emotional response to a potentially threatening situation. Fear alerts us to danger. Anxiety arises when an animal expects to encounter a potentially threatening situation. Persistent fears and anxieties can lead to phobias. Phobias generally impede quality of life.
Fear: a learned experience
Cats learn to fear situations that have scared them in the past. They may also be frightened of experiences that they have never encountered before.
Reason to fear: Pain & illness
Pain or illness cause stress. If you are experiencing pain, then it stands to reason that you should attempt to get out of the situation causing pain. Proceed with caution if your animal is stressed or in fear through pain. Have a vet check.
Reason to fear: Well-being & welfare
There are occasions that our cats' well-being may be compromised and their welfare is diminished. This may be through neglect, through abuse or through inadequate provision of needs. More commonly, owners fail to provide adequate care for their pets due to not understanding their unique needs.
Scaredy cats can be difficult to live with. They are flighty, may show unwanted behaviours such as inappropriate urination and we just feel sorry for them, feeling scared at everything." Dr Jo
Causes of the anxiety problem
Reason to fear: Negative experience
Most kittens are willing to meet and greet new experiences with a confident step and innate curiosity. Most experiences turn out to be positive ones and the kitten is calm and accepting or playful and positive. Occasionally, however, the experience turns out to be a negative one. Your kitten feels scared. If the fearful experience is repeated or even if it is only experienced once but it extremely painful or fear-provoking, your kitten may learn to fear that stimulus.
Reason to fear: No experience
Cats may be fearful of experiences that they encounter for the first time. This is because they have had no previous experience of that particular situation. The new experience has them on edge, alert and perhaps ready to flee. Your cat may be experiencing fear, anxiety or phobias to events that they have had little or no experience of in early life.
Reason to fear: Separation from social group
Although most people think of cats as being solitary animals, cats do enjoy a level of social living. They may choose to hunt alone but they enjoy the company and security of having other familiar, and often familial, cats around them. We humans are our pet cat’s companions, as well as any other cats that may live in your household. Our feline companions feel most content when we are with them. Cats can become overly attached to the human members of their pack, especially when they are able to spend the majority of their day in close proximity. When left alone they may fret. This is known as separation anxiety. Cats may show inappropriate toilet behaviours (eg. peeing and pooing indoors), be destructive around the home, overgroom, vocalise or sometimes seek out other company in their neighbourhood.