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…
Can cats have autism? Here’s what to know about unusual behavior in cats
Learn about special needs and autism in cats
Cat with blue eyes staring into the distance

Can cats have autism? This is a question that might have crossed your mind as you try to decipher your cat's behavior patterns. Even though the diagnosis is centered on human behavior, many pet lovers and experts have discovered similarities between special-needs cats and people with autism. Still, cats are typically only labeled as special needs if they have a diagnosed physical or mental disability.

There are several behaviors in cats that are similar to those found in humans on the autism spectrum. These include:

Read more
Why is my cat peeing on my bed? The real truth (and how to stop this gross habit)
Causes and solutions for when your cat pees where you sleep
Striped cat sitting on a bed in the bedroom

No one likes to ask, "Why is my cat peeing on my bed?" but here we are. It can be so frustrating! Noticing that your cat peed on your fresh-out-of-the-washing-machine sheets is one of the most irritating things that can happen. There are a lot of different reasons besides your cat just being a jerk that explain why she would do such a thing. Understanding the "why" will help you figure out what is really going on inside of your furry feline’s head, so you can then determine how to stop this unwanted behavior.

While many believe the primary reason cats pee on the bed is because they're just being sassy, this is usually not the case. Read on to learn why your cat has picked up this undesirable habit and what you can do to put an end to it.

Read more
Is incense bad for cats? 4 important things to consider before using it in your home
Considerations, safety tips, and healthier alternatives for burning incense around cats
Burning incense and tabby cat

Pet accidents, dirty laundry, stagnant air, and garbage are all common causes of an unpleasant smell. And if you’re a cat parent, managing the kitty litter box can be a smelly proposition in itself. So what’s a self-respecting homeowner to do?

Burning incense is among the various methods you can use to make your home smell nice, but is incense bad for cats? It's important to learn whether the benefits of having a pleasant-smelling home outweigh the potential health risks that burning incense poses for your cat. If you love the smell of incense but worry that it’s not good for your feline friend, this is everything you should consider.

Read more