Cat Care- How to Calm a Nervous Cat

In today's article, we'll tell you how to calm a nervous cat without getting yourself bitten or scratched in the process.
Cat Care- How to Calm a Nervous Cat

Last update: 16 September, 2019

In today’s article, we’ll tell you how to calm a nervous cat without getting yourself bitten or scratched in the process.

As a general rule, cats are usually very laid-back animals. However, while they’re never quite as effusive as their canine cousins, they can act unpredictably when faced when a stressful situation. A cat that is upset or annoyed can be dangerous, attempting to attack those who get too close. Fear, in particular, causes their natural instincts to kick in, and can cause a number of issues.

Why is my cat nervous?

A cat can become stressed when faced with a new situation. A noise, place, smell or specific object can create feelings of panic, or cause it to act out of character. So, the first thing you need to know is how to recognize when your cat is feeling nervous.

Here are some of the most common signs of stress in cats:

  • Your cat doesn’t want you to stroke its head or touch it (its self-defense instincts have kicked in).
  • Nervous cats will often try to hide (to avoid whatever is causing the stress).
  • It will walk in a crouched position, keeping its body low to the ground (to avoid being injured by whatever is causing the stress).
  • Your cat may growl or try to scratch you (aggressive self-defense behavior).
  • It will arch its back, holding its tail upright and puffing out its fur.
  • Excessive grooming (in an attempt to relieve stress – it may start to lick itself frantically).
  • Dilated pupils and ears held flat back against the head (this is one of the most common physical symptoms of stress).

Similarly, it’s important to understand what exactly is causing your pet to feel this way. There are a huge number of things that can cause a cat to feel stressed, but the most common are:

  • Traumatic experiences

How to calm a nervous cat

Once you’ve established what has caused your cat to feel nervous, you’ll need to take action in order to help it relax. Here are the steps you should follow to help calm your nervous cat:

1. Only approach when necessary

You need to think of your own safety as well as your pet’s. In the majority of cases, cats prefer to be left in peace to calm down on their own. Trying to stroke them or pick them up can often cause them to become aggressive. If you really need to approach them, do so with extreme caution, taking care to move slowly and not make too much noise.

2. Using a calm voice, call them, and try to attract them toward you

If your cat is nervous because it can’t get down from a tree, for example, or it has gotten stuck somewhere in your backyard, approach it slowly and talk to it in a soft, soothing voice. You can even sing a lullaby if you want. But whatever you do, don’t shout, as this will only scare it more.

3. Attract it with food

Food is a great way to relieve nerves and tension in cats. It’s always good to have some wet food on-hand, as the smell is more likely to attract it to you. Put some on a plate halfway between you and your pet so that it has to move closer to you.

4. Keep calm, and be patient

Cats are sensitive creatures and are able to detect their owners’ feelings and emotions. If you’re feeling nervous, it will too. However, if you stay calm and show your pet that there is nothing to be afraid of, things will quickly return to normal.

5. Offer your cat its favorite toy (but don’t throw it!)

Just like with food, you can encourage your cat to approach you by offering it a favorite toy. Toys can actually be really effective in these situations. Your cat will see it as something familiar and comforting, and will associate it with play. You don’t need to take it right up to it. Simply place it on the ground a few feet away and leave it to get it itself.

How to calm a nervous cat: other options to consider

If none of the above options work, you can also try one of the following methods:

  • Isolate your cat: if your cat is extremely nervous or scared, isolating it is a good way to get it to calm down. Cats feel more comfortable in small spaces, so places such as bathrooms are ideal. When the source of the stress disappears, you can open the door, and leave your cat to come out in its own time.
  • Pheromones: another way to calm your cat is to use the same chemicals that it uses to communicate with other cats. Pheromones are released through the paws, tail, face and back, and can have a calming effect. You can buy synthetic pheromone diffusers, sprays and collars in most good pet stores.
  • Medication: if your cat is often in a state of stress or fear, there are certain medications that can help. Your vet will know which sedative is most suitable for your cat, and will be able to prescribe the correct dosage. Of course, you should only administer such medication when strictly necessary, using it as a prevention rather than a cure.
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