Nervous Cat Behavior

Nervous cat behavior can be caused by a variety of things and can become worse over time if not treated. If your cat is showing nervous behavior, determine the cause and try to make him more comfortable.

Causes of Nervous Cat Behavior

Some cats are just more nervous than others, which can be caused by genetics, but often stems from a lack of socialization early in life. Cats have a very small window during which they need to be exposed to everything they shouldn't fear later in life. This exposure must happen by the time they are 12 weeks old.

If you acquire a kitten, make sure to expose him to strange people, noises and other pets in a positive manner when he is still young. Do this by controlling the situation. Keep your kitten in a safe area with a bed and toys, where he can't escape, and expose him to different stimuli at a distance. Give rewards as the stimulus is brought closer or made louder, until your cat seems perfectly comfortable with it. Keep the sessions short, and if your kitten ever seems fearful, move more slowly.

Cats that have a negative experience with something can also develop a fear. This could happen with noises, people or other pets.

Symptoms of Nervous Cat Behavior

Cats can exhibit nervous behavior in a variety of ways. The most common is to run and hide. Many cats will disappear into a safe hiding place when something scary happens, to protect themselves.

Nervousness may also exhibit itself as aggression. If a cat feels trapped or has learned that aggressive behavior causes scary things to leave, he may hiss, scratch or bite when faced with a fearful situation. This may appear as aggression toward the frightening stimulus, or it can be redirected toward the owner or other pets in the house.

Your cat may also redirect this nervousness toward inanimate objects, which could result in the destruction of furniture, carpet or other objects.

Nervous behavior can also lead to inappropriate elimination. If your cat is frightened, he may spray various places in the house. If your cat was frightened while on the litter box, he may become afraid of the litter box and begin to eliminate in other places.

Treating Nervous Cat Behavior

If your cat is hiding from something he fears, never remove him from his hiding place. This will make the fear worse and may cause him to react aggressively. Instead, allow him to hide.

Create a "den" where he can feel safe when being exposed to the frightening stimulus. Put a bed in an airline crate and feed him treats in the den. Keep it in a dark, safe room with a DAP diffuser, that releases calm pheromones in the air.

Once he's comfortable in his crate, give him high value treats as he is exposed to the stimulus at the lowest possible level, either far away or at a low volume. Gradually, build up the exposure, keeping the sessions short and fun. If he's ever frightened, end the session.

Reducing your cat's nerves significantly improves his quality of life. Determine what is causing the nervous cat behavior and then work to reduce his fear.