Fraidy Cats - Fear of People, Places and Things
Most cats are afraid of anything new. Some
quickly overcome their fears, and are curious about new
things and try to make friends with people. Other cats,
who likely aren’t well socialized, or who perhaps
have genetic tendencies toward fearful behavior, have great
difficulty adjusting to anything new, including people.
They may hide under the bed when guests arrive, or avoid
Fears are not rational. Think of something you are extremely
afraid of – perhaps it’s heights, snakes, flying,
or insects, which is Dr. Hetts’ personal favorite.
It isn’t very helpful for someone to force you into
an airplane, put a snake around your neck, or a bug in
your hand and say “See – it won’t hurt
In fact, you are likely to become even more fearful by
having these experiences forced on you. The same thing
holds true for your cat. So avoid forcing your cat to experience
what he is afraid of. Do not try to pick up a fearful cat
and introduce him to visitors. Your cat may become defensive
or scratch .
Cats can sometimes habituate (get used to) to the people
and things that frighten them. This most often happens
with mild fears, where your cat still can tolerate some
limited contact with what frightens her.
With more severe fears, your cat will continue to avoid,
and never have the chance, to get used to the thing she
is afraid of. Instead, you’ll need to use carefully
implemented behavior modification techniques such as counter conditioning and desensitization procedures.
Most cats can learn to be friendlier, but some may never
be social butterflies and at ease with everyone.
PRODUCTS THAT WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND, PREVENT AND RESOLVE FEAR PROBLEMS WITH YOUR CAT
To better understand fearful behavior, we recommend The
by Dr. Patricia McConnell. Even though the booklet is
focused on dogs, the ideas about the causes of fears
and the techniques for resolution are the same for cats.
We also recommend our two hour audio CD program Using
Counter Conditioning and Desensitization Techniques Effectively to Modify Behavior to learn about the most effective techniques
for dealing with fearful behavior problems in cats and