Has a new cat come to the family and seems to be always scared of you? Has your cat experienced changes in his behavior and now it shows you fear? Has he even attacked you? Although this behavior is very frustrating for the human companion of the cat, we must understand that fear is a natural state in all species and, although we do not want to do anything other than give him love, perhaps we do not do it in the most correct way for the cat.
If you wonder why your cat is afraid of you Continue reading this article from , where you will know more about the ethology of this species and you will find guidelines to help your cat and his fear.
How to know if a cat is afraid?
First, we must learn to differentiate if our cat is scared of other behaviors, but we should also try to find out what degree of fear it suffers. When the intensity of fear is low, the cat will show behaviors such as lower the posture y mydriasis (or dilatation of the pupils).
As the level of fear increases, the cat Flatten the ears laterally, there is piloerection or bristling of the hair and vocalizations as grunts or hisses. If the intensity becomes high, the cat acquires a latero-ventral posture (on one side, showing the belly) and exposes teeth and claws. Arrived at this state it could attack if it does not have another escape, although in general, a cat prefers to avoid a confrontation.
During the fear process the levels of adrenaline and cortisol increase. The latter is the stress hormone, so a scared cat is a stressed cat, and if the cat also lives in a constant state of fear it can develop a chronic stress, very harmful to your physical and mental health.
The introduction of a kitten in the home and the neophobia
All animals with a developed central nervous system show instinctively fear of new things or situations, this is known as “neophobia”. The neurological center of fear is the amygdala, which not only influences the reaction to fear, but also acts on conditioned or learned fears.
When we introduce a kitten into the home for the first time, everything is new to him and, possibly, creepy. Is completely normal that the cat is scared in a new house and we observe that he is afraid of everything. We must leave time and space to adapt, know the home and its members. In a cat, this period can encompass from several days to months.
All the vertebrate offspring have a period during their childhood known as “sensitive period”, in which the animal is more receptive to all the stimuli that surround it, having greater capacity to learn and develop capacities. The sensitive period in kittens occurs between the second and seventh week of age. They learn to communicate, join and create links with people. A good socialization in the puppy cat reduces the risk of aggression by fear.
Karsh and Turner (1988), two scientists, investigated the degree of Sociability towards humans that he owned an adult cat based on how much he was manipulated during childhood. They observed that more manipulation of the kittens made them more tolerant of people. However, the 15% of the kittens in the experiment They were “resistant” to manipulation, that is, they were not more tolerant. This determines that there is also an influential genetic factor (excitable and hyperactive temperaments).
La early handling specifically affects the perception of the cat on known and unknown people, in addition, the ability to communicate socially with humans needs maintenance, because they can lose sociability.
Fear in cats due to traumas or diseases
If instead of introducing a kitten we introduce an adult cat into our home, we will probably not know its past and we will not know if the fear we transmit to it is learned or if it is neophobia. We do not know if the cat has lived traumatic situations, such as abuse or abandonment. It is important to point out that it is not easy to differentiate the fear of a cat from mistreatment of the one suffered by another due to abandonment and lack of socialization, since both individuals will be afraid of the people.
In this situation, the adaptation period increases. We must try that the cat is in a very relaxed environment, always have a positive behavior towards him and leave his space.
At other times, this fear appears spontaneously and the cat is frightened for no reason. He begins to be suspicious of contact, avoids his human partner and carries out certain behaviors that are confused with fear, such as mydriasis. In this case we can find ourselves before a sick cat which, due to pain, shows a negative attitude towards manipulation.
Unlike dogs, it is not always easy to detect signs of pain in cats, however, we can see that the cat he hides and does not want to leave, he seems scared, he is afraid of another cat or the people of the home (when he did not have it before) and he even seems to be afraid of situations he is totally used to.
The treatment of fear in cats
First of all, it is important to make a previous veterinary study that certifies that the animal does not present any physical problem. Once determined that the cat does not suffer from any disease, techniques can be used behavior modification, such as desensitization and counter-conditioning.
As we are the ones who instill fear, our presence is what acts as an aversive stimulus, so we can positive our presence Approaching the cat slowly and calmly, as well as showing appetizing treats to attract attention. The cat should not be touched until he does not come to rub against us voluntarily.
Another option is to stay short periods of time in the room where the cat is, performing some quiet activity, such as reading, transmitting the animal calm and confidence. We must never force the animalIt must be he who decides to have us as a companion.
In addition, it is essential to recognize situations that can induce fear to the cat and avoid them, such as looking them straight in the eyes, lean on them in a position of superiority, produce loud and unexpected sounds. Preventing exposure to circumstances that cause fear is key to reducing stress and solving the problem. If the cat experiences a fear situation, it is better to avoid the cat than to try to calm it down, as it can lead to redirected aggressiveness.
If we observe that, after a while, the behavior of the cat does not improve or even go further, it will be time to contact a professional, such as a veterinarian specializing in ethology.
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