SHU TTERS TOCK/SONSEDSKA YULIIA
A lifelong cat owner and award-winning writer, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently
about cats, cat breeds, and a range of pet-related topics. A big source of inspira-
tion for her writing comes from her two cats: Jack, a 7-year-old red tabby domestic
shorthair, and Phillip, a 3-year-old gray-and-white domestic shorthair. Both cats were
adopted from local pet store adoption events and bring a lot of personality and love
to a household that also includes a teenager and an occasionally visiting college stu-
dent. Stacy also is “stepmom” to a wonderful Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix named Maggie
as well as two brown tabby domestic shorthairs named Katie and Leroy.
As a cat matures, he might begin to
show fear toward things that did not
frighten him before — or he may
grow out of the fear in a manner
similar to what I am noticing with
my feline crew. This may prove
especially true in social situations,
Krieger said. “Some cats, as they age,
become more trusting of people;
others become more wary and fear-
ful,” she explained. “It depends on
the individual cats as well as how
they are treated by their people.”
When Phillip turned 2, I noticed
that he had become less social
— not exactly afraid of people,
but not eager to greet them.
The dynamic of our household
has changed quite a bit in the
last year or so, with my older
child moving away to college,
so Krieger’s insight struck home
with me. Phillip isn’t being treated
differently, per se, but he is not
interacting with all of his “people”
with the regularity he has come
to expect, and this is affecting his
attitude toward other people.
Don’t Worry: As a cat
adjusts to the “new normal” of a
changing household, his fears may
subside, and he will likely revert to
his old self.
Be concerned: If your cat
becomes more and more fearful
of visitors, it may be a symptom of
illness or anxiety. Schedule a visit
with your vet.
➜ Adults and Seniors
On the other hand, as Jack settles into the middle of his adult
years, he is becoming more social.
We tend to let Jack interact with
people on his own terms, and
Krieger said that approach can
help cats overcome their social
fears. “If the shy cat’s owners set
up situations that encourage the
cat to feel safe, most likely she
will start feeling secure enough
to start socializing,” she said. Such
an approach applies to cats of all
ages, including senior cats.
Don’t worry: Letting a cat
overcome his fears on his own terms
may help him beat it completely.
Don’t force the issue; it could make
the fear more intense.
Be concerned: Forced interaction with an item or situation that
your cat fears may make him lash
out or become withdrawn — or even
associate a formerly trusted family
member with a fearful situation.
What is the best way to help a cat
overcome her fear? Helping her feel
safe in potentially threatening situations, Krieger said. One of the ways
I am trying to do this in my house is
by leaving the cat carrier out where
both cats can investigate it on their
own terms. While I doubt I’ll ever
encourage Jack to take a nap in the
carrier, I hope that he will become
familiar enough with it that he
doesn’t run and hide when it’s time
to visit the vet.
Still, that fight-or-flight instinct
helps keep our cats safe. As Krieger
pointed out, “Healthy fears help
ensure the individual’s survival.”