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¿A new feline has arrived in the family and it seems to be always scared of you? ¿Your cat has undergone changes in its behavior and now 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 it love, perhaps we do not do it in the most correct way for the cat.
If you wonder why is your cat afraid of you continue reading this article by Animal Expert, where you will learn more about the ethology of this species and you will find guidelines to help your cat and its fear.You may also be interested in: My dog is afraid of me, what to do? Index
- How to know if a cat is afraid?
- Introducing a kitten into the home and neophobia
- Fear in cats of trauma or disease
- Treating fear in cats
How to know if a cat is afraid?
First of all, we must learn to differentiate if our cat is scared from other behaviors, but we must 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 posture Y mydriasis (or dilation of the pupils).
As the fear level increases, the cat flatten ears laterally, there is piloerection or standing on end of the hair and vocalizations such as grunts or hisses. If the intensity becomes high, the cat acquires a lateral-ventral posture (on one side, showing the belly) and exposes teeth and claws. At this stage it could attack if it has no other way out, 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.
Introducing a kitten into the home and neophobia
All animals with a developed central nervous system instinctively show 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 in the face of conditioned or learned fears.
When we first introduce a kitten into the home, everything is new to him and possibly spooky. Is totally normal that the cat is scared in a new house and that we observe that it is afraid of everything. We must allow time and space for him to adapt, get to know the home and its members. In a cat, this period can span from several days to months.
All vertebrate offspring have a period during their childhood known as the "sensitive period ", in which the animal is more receptive to all the stimuli that surround it, having a 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, affiliate, and bond with people. Good socialization in the puppy cat reduces the risk of aggressiveness due to fear.
Karsh and Turner (1988), two scientists, investigated the degree of sociability towards humans that an adult cat owned based on how much it was handled during childhood. They observed that greater handling of the kittens made them more tolerant of people. However, 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 influencing genetic factor (excitable and hyperactive temperaments).
The early manipulation specifically affects the cat's perception of known and unfamiliar people, in addition, the ability to communicate socially with humans needs maintenance, as they can lose sociability.
Fear in cats of trauma or disease
If instead of introducing a kitten we introduce an adult cat into our home, we will probably ignore its past and we will not know if the fear that we transmit is learned or if it is neophobia. We do not know if the cat has lived traumatic situations, such as abuse or neglect. It is important to note that it is not easy to differentiate a cat's fear of abuse from that of another due to neglect and lack of socialization, since both individuals will be afraid of 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 appears frightened for no reason. He begins to be suspicious of contact, avoids his human companion and carries out certain behaviors that can be confused with fear, such as mydriasis. In this case we can find ourselves before a sick cat who, due to pain, shows a negative attitude towards manipulation.
Unlike dogs, it is not always easy to detect the signs of pain in cats, however, we can observe that the cat hides and does not want to go out, seems scared, is afraid of another cat or people in the home (when before it was not) and even seems to be suddenly afraid of situations to which it is totally accustomed.
Treating fear in cats
Above all, it is important to carry out a previous veterinary study certifying that the animal does not present any physical problem. Once it has been determined that the cat is not suffering from any disease, testing techniques can be used. behavior modification, such as desensitization and counter-conditioning.
Since we are the ones who instill fear, it is our presence that 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 its attention. The cat should not be touched until he comes to rub against us voluntarily.
Another option is to stay for short periods of time in the room where the cat is, doing some quiet activity, such as reading, transmitting calm and confidence to the animal.. We must never force the animal, He must be the one who decides to have us as a partner.
In addition, it is essential to recognize situations that can induce fear of the cat and avoid them, such as staring them in the eyes, lean over them in a position of superiority, produce loud and unexpected sounds. Preventing exposure to fear-provoking circumstances is key to reducing stress and solving the problem. If the cat experiences a fearful situation, it is better to avoid the cat than to try to calm it, as it can lead to redirected aggressiveness.
If we observe that, after a while, the cat's behavior does not improve and even increases, it will be time to contact a professional, such as a veterinarian specialized in ethology.