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Why Is My Cat Scared All Of A Sudden – 10 Likely Reasons!

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As a cat owner, you have seen your cat get scared of something. Your cat could be calmly sitting next to you on the couch one minute and then suddenly bolts in the other direction. Most of the time, you may not even notice what scared your cat. Thus, you start to ask yourself, why is my cat scared all of a sudden?

Your cat is likely scared all of a sudden due to recent changes in their living environment. Loud noises, unfamiliar scents and territory, past negative encounters, and pain, as well as sickness, can all cause cats to experience sudden fear.

Cats can be afraid for several reasons. While this list does not exhaust all the reasons your cat can be suddenly scared, it is pretty comprehensive and gives you some ideas about what may be scaring your cat. Just keep reading! 

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Your Cat Was Scared By Something

While this may seem like a stupid answer to the question, it could be as simple as something scaring your cat. Even the bravest cats can be scared by a sudden noise or movement. 

You will notice that a cat has been scared by something suddenly if you see their hair on their back bristle. They may also poof up their tail and turn sideways to make themselves look bigger.

A small shock is enough to change your cat’s personality for a whole day. Most cats will recover from a sudden fright within a few minutes. 

Something In Your Cat’s Environment Changed

Most cats are creatures of habit, which means that they do not like when things around them are changed. 

You may have chosen to redecorate your living or choose a new decoration for the holiday season. Sometimes cats will notice differences in the environment faster than even your own family might.

This is the case in my household. One of my cats dislikes change more than anything else. If my mom puts a new decoration on the counter, like a small pumpkin for fall or a tree for Christmas, one of our cats will inspect it for what seems like forever. My cat will inch closer and closer in fear that the object will lunge at her.

Not all cats will notice changes, but a particular cat will quickly recognize things that have changed. 

There will be some cats who will not feel better until the difference is rectified. If there is a significant change in your cat’s environment and they act differently, you may need to think about going back to your old style.

Something Outside Scared Your Cat

Most cats like to spend their day looking outside the window or door, and something outside may have been enough to scare your cat suddenly. 

Any number of things could have scared your cat:

  • Leaves blowing on the trees
  • A squirrel hopping onto a bird feeder
  • A neighborhood dog going for a walk down the sidewalk 

One of my cats was once sitting in a cat perch in our sunroom. Birds were flying around outside, and one crashed into the window next to our cat sitting in. Our cat leaped about two feet in the air and ran out of the room. He didn’t return to one of his favorite spots in the house for almost a week because he was so scared of what happened! 

You Have A New Cat In The House

A new cat can cause your cat to be scared suddenly.

If your cat is used to being the only cat in the house, then a new cat will be shocking. 

Similarly, if your cat is used to older or adult cats, then a kitten can also be surprising for your cat.

No matter the type of cat, your cat won’t be used to the sudden change in the living situation.

After all, you may have been planning to get a new kitten for months, but there is not a great way to break the news to your cat without simply bringing home another cat one day. 

Some cats will take a new cat in the house easier than others, but you should not be surprised or worried if your cat is scared by more things than usual until he gets used to his new brother or sister. 

You Have A Child In The House

Bringing home a newborn baby can significantly change your cat, especially if it is your first child. 

Taking a baby into your house for the first time is a similar experience to getting another cat for the cat you already own.

If you’ve always had a particularly quiet house, the baby crying or whining could be scary to your cat. Your cat may go running when he hears your baby’s cries or hears the baby’s monitor crackle when your baby needs attention. 

When you’re introducing the new child to your cat, you may notice that your cat will often go running in fear of the baby.

This should not cause too much worry. Your cat will eventually get used to the new baby in the house, but it will be a learning curve for everyone. 

There Is Another New Animal In The House

Other cats and babies are not the only things that can scare your cat suddenly.

Perhaps you decided to expand your family with a new dog. A cat that has never been around dogs will be understandably afraid of your dog. 

Your new dog could be big or small, but there is no guarantee that your cat will instantly become best friends with your dog.

You could go for a more exotic animal too, which can have a different relationship with your cat. Think of someone who has a cat and purchased a bird or a snake. It changes the dynamic of the household!

Here are some things that can change in your home for your cat when you get a new animal, no matter what kind of animal it is:

  • The animal will make different noises. Since it isn’t a cat, there won’t be any meowing that your cat is familiar to your cat!
  • There will be new smells. A fish tank will smell differently from a rabbit cage in your house. Your cat will want to explore those new smells he may have never smelled before.
  • Your cat will not be the only one getting your attention anymore. This may not be a significant change if you get an animal that is not handled, like a fish. Other animals that require more care will take more of your attention.
  • There will be different foods in the house. A curious cat may want to sample some of the new food in the house, so you may have to be careful. 

No matter the kind of new animal you get, you will want to make sure you take the time to introduce your cat to the new pet in the house.

Otherwise, your cat will be suddenly scared by what he sees or hears for longer.

Your Cat Heard Something You Didn’t

A simple noise can be enough to give your cat a sudden fright.

Cats have more sensitive hearing than humans, so your cat will likely hear something that you didn’t.

This noise, loud or slight, could scare your cat and send him running! 

Since you did not hear the noise yourself, it is only natural why you would be confused when your cat runs out of the room and starts to hide. 

Something Happened To Your Cat That You Didn’t See

It’s impossible to know what your cat is doing at all times, so something likely happened to your cat when you were not looking.

For instance, maybe you have two cats that like to taunt each other. When you are nearby, your cats are well-behaved with each other.

When you turn your back to your cats, however, they may begin to fight.

I had one cat in the past that liked to torment other cats in the house. If my mom was in the room, the cat acted like an angel. When she was not in the room, he would bonk the other cats on the head and scare them! He would do it in front of me, but not my mother, which was so odd.

If he were fighting with another cat and heard my mom coming, this cat would suddenly start to act like a good cat and did not show he did anything wrong.

My mom did not believe me when I said our cat was misbehaving because she never saw his misbehavior. 

This should be enough to show you that your cats may act like toddlers around each other. Your cats can be scaring each other behind closed doors, and you may never even realize it! 

Your Cat Is In Pain

This is one that we never want to think about, but there is a possibility that your cat is in pain.

Cats don’t understand pain like humans do, so that pain can be a scary experience for your cats. They do not know why they are hurting, and they cannot tell you that something is wrong.

If your cat is walking around the house, and his leg suddenly starts to hurt him, one of his first reactions would be to run away from the pain. 

You may not understand why your cat is scared all of a sudden, but it can be linked to the physical pain that your cat is feeling.

Your cat doesn’t know that he is unable to run away and hide from the pain. 

It can be challenging to know when your cat is in pain. Usually, a cat that is in pain will hide more and start to socialize less with others. This might be hard to notice in shy cats, but it will be evident in friendly cats.

Your Cat Can’t Hear Or See Well

This is another one that most cat owners would prefer not to think about, but it is an option that you should keep in mind. 

Your cat may have trouble seeing or hearing, which can lead to him getting easily startled by things around him. Some of these things may not even be scary! 

Both of these impairments can make your cat’s life more difficult, and it can be challenging to realize that this is your cat’s problem. 

If your cat has trouble seeing, he may not be able to realize things are near him until he is close to them. Seeing objects suddenly could startle him, but that does not mean that he will always run away from them in fear.

Hearing can be more difficult for cats. It may also be easier for you to notice because your cat will never pay attention to you or hear things that he should.

Cats that can’t hear are more easily startled than cats that can. For instance, every time you walk up behind your cat, you may scare him because he does not know that you’re there. 

Unfortunately, there is not always a remedy to sight or hearing loss. Instead, the treatment and remedy will be changing how you interact with your cat not to scare him. 

How To Help Your Cat Cope With Fear

If the fear your cat is experiencing does not go away quickly, it will be helpful to have some tools or methods to help your cat cope with fear.

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Keep your cat’s environment essentially the same, or keep your cat in a familiar area. This is particularly important for cats that are getting older and may be going blind. 
  • Use medication prescribed by your vet. This can include medicine for anxiety or stress from anxiety. Speak to your vet about what option is for you.
  • Take your cat to your vet to see if anything else is wrong. You never know what can be going on under the surface. 
  • Give your cat some love. Sit on the floor and pet him or let him crawl onto your lap when relaxing for the night. 

Different cats will benefit from different coping methods. Continue working with your cat and trying new things; that way, you can learn what the best coping method is for your cat.