Skip to main content

4 incredible ways to calm a cat who’s scared of everything

Just as parents share their kid-related troubles with friends, pet parents like to commiserate when things don’t go as planned. If you’ve ever uttered the phrase “my cat is scared of everything,” then you’re probably desperate to know how to calm a scared cat. It’s normal for cats to be cautious around strangers and new pets, but when Miss Mittens hisses at visiting friends and bolts under the bed in response to every sound, your fur baby’s fear can turn an otherwise peaceful household into a disruptive space. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of four amazing ways you can calm a cat who’s scared of everything — no pricey training sessions required.

A frightened orange tabby cat crouching low to the ground.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to tell if your cat is frightened

While hissing, yowling, and scratching are obvious signs that your cat is upset, some cats exhibit more subtle clues. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Urinating or defecating outside her litter box
  • Rapidly swishing her tail or tucking it beneath her body
  • Wide eyes with dilated pupils
  • Crouching low to the floor
  • Hiding in small spaces or beneath furniture
  • Flattened or fast-moving ears
  • Arching her back
  • Puffing out her fur
  • Running from room to room

If you notice any of these signs, your cat is clearly frightened. Fortunately, there are ways you can help her calm down.

1. Give her some space

Have you ever purchased an expensive cat tree only to have your feline friend curl up in the box instead? Cats love enclosed spaces because they feel cozy and secure. Cats are also intensely territorial creatures, so they can easily become overwhelmed if they have too much freedom to roam. This is especially true if you have small children or live in a multi-pet household. Try designating a smaller, cat-friendly space containing her food, water, toys, bed, and a litter box. You can keep the door closed to give her total privacy, or you can install a cat door, so she has the freedom to come and go as she pleases. Once your cat realizes she has a safe space of her own, she may feel more comfortable exploring the rest of the house. Allow her to take it at her own pace. It’s impossible to force a cat to be more social, and any attempts may backfire.

A tuxedo cat hiding inside of a paper bag.

2. Encourage her to spend time with you

The last thing you want to do is chase a frightened cat. You may want her to come cuddle with you on the sofa, but you should refrain from reaching under the bed to pull her out of hiding. Chasing a cat who’s already terrified will only make matters worse. In fact, chasing any cat can lead to anxiety. Instead, leave her favorite treats out where she can smell them. With luck, the scent will draw her out of hiding. When she does come out of hiding, remain calm instead of rushing to greet her, as this may send her back into hiding. If she seems playful, encourage a game with her favorite toy. Make sure to give her lots of praise after every successful interaction to encourage socialization.

3. Don’t walk on eggshells

When you have a frightened cat, it may be tempting to listen to soft, calming music, watch TV only with the volume on low, or otherwise alter your behavior to accommodate her fears. In reality, you could be making the problem worse. Instead, it’s important to help your cat adjust to life in an active household. Like dogs, cats respond better to positive reinforcement. Muffling your lifestyle around a frightened cat may send the message that she should continue with her current behaviors. Instead, try using pheromone sprays or diffusers, which help create a tranquil, spa-like atmosphere for your feline friend.

4. Create positive connections

Does your cat hide under the bed every time your best friend comes over for coffee? If your cat is afraid of a friend, family member, or another pet, teach your cat to associate the source of her fear with something positive. Give your cat a treat if she wanders out into the living room while your friend is over. Praise her and reward her with her favorite toy when she stands near your dog. When your cat begins to associate visiting friends and family — or the family pooch — with positive experiences and treats, she may eventually stop being frightened altogether.

A scared black cat peeking around a corner.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Living with a frightened cat can put a damper on your home life, but with time and patience, she should settle down. If nothing you’ve tried has helped, it may be time to speak to your vet. Cats can suffer from anxiety and depression, and sometimes medication is needed to help your frightened feline overcome her fears.

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
These are the 10 most popular cat breeds, as counted by The Cat Fanciers’ Association
Here are the top 10 most popular cat breeds in the world
A Devon Rex cat is held up against a blue sky

The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) recognizes 46 different feline breeds, but not all of them can be the most popular. That's why the CFA took a look into its registries to determine the top 10 most popular cat breeds of 2022. It welcomes registrations from "nonstandard" and "non-pedigreed" cats as well, but those feline friends weren't included in this particular count.

Which types of cats do you think were the most popular in 2022? Whether you can list off every breed or can't even name one, we guarantee there's at least one surprise on this list.

Read more
Are cats color blind? It’s a bit more complicated than you might think
The truth about cat eyes is a little more perplexing than you may know
A gray cat with shiny eyes stares at the camera

You may have been told at some point that cats don't see color, and pictured your pet examining the world in black and white. But as far as we know, only one animal actually sees that way (a fish) so that's not what color blindness means in this situation.
Cats aren't fully color blind, so they do see some colors, but not others. Taking a deeper dive into your cat's pretty eyes will help you understand them and can guide you with other things like training and play. So are cats color blind? Here's what you need to know.

How do animals see color and light?
A quick lesson in biology first: Our eyes (and those of our cats) use rods and cones to see light and color respectively (of course color and light overlap, but you get the idea). Most humans have cones for green, blue, and red, and if any of those are missing, that's what creates color blindness. About 8% of males (the human kind) are color blind, usually a form called red-green, which is somewhat similar to how our cats see.

Read more
Being a cat person will help you get dates: Study
You'll be glad you have a feline or a Fido after you read this
Person wearing a wedding ring holds cat in hands

All pet parents understand that our fur babies come first, even if that sometimes means scaring away potential mates. Still what many don't realize is that owning a pet can actually attract a person to you (and your beloved animal). It's officially time to retire the stereotype that having a cat means saying goodbye to meeting a special human someone. In fact, recent research claims the opposite — that being a cat person may actually make you more likely to score a relationship or a good date.

It's official: there are romantic benefits to owning a cat
Luckily for us, new research conducted by OnePoll for World’s Best Cat Litter of 1,000 cat owners (and 1,000 non-cat owners) has discovered that kitty moms and dads are actually more likely to be in a relationship and equally likely to be married. But if you're in the dating market, there's even better news. 72% of everyone surveyed thought owning a pet was an attractive quality, and many stated they would be more interested in dating someone who had one. To top it off, 40% claimed they had gone home with a potential date to meet a particularly cute pet at one time or another, so your little kitty might help you out in that department too.
Cat people will still scare away a few dates (good riddance)
On the flip side, we all understand there are some drawbacks to living with a pet, mainly that some won't be able to enter into a partnership with us (and our fuzzball) no matter how much they might want to. Research participants were very cognizant of allergies in particular, with 41% saying it would pose a potential problem. That's just slightly more than the number who mentioned a dislike of cats would not stop them from dating someone (40%). It's important to note that hating cats mostly crossed the line, and cat people generally do not want to date those who don't understand their kitties.
Pets are part of the family for many
Every cat person knows that our pets are important to us and equivalent to family. “Even if you’re not the type to treat your pets like they’re your children, they’re still an important part of the family and can wield a lot of influence,” says Jean Broders, Director of Marketing for World’s Best Cat Litter, in a statement. “Cat owners clearly seem to know this, as our findings indicate they’re more likely to worry about making a good first impression on a partner’s pet.”

Read more