The first thing to understand regarding a cat’s fear of sudden motion or movement is that this is part of the nature of every animal. Throughout evolution, the ability to perceive and respond to sudden motion has helped keep all animals alive. It’s a survival mechanism, alerting animals to the possible presence of predators.
The problem arises when this normal psychological trait becomes heightened in some cats. An exaggerated startle response can arise for a number of reasons, with the three main ones being these:
- It can simply be part of the personality of the individual cat.
- It’s the result of some earlier traumatic experience that made the cat especially fearful of certain things.
- The cat did not receive adequate exposure to certain things when he was young, which has caused him to be overly fearful of those things during his adult life.
Personality differences in cats
Every cat has his or her own unique personality, just as every person does. Because of this, we need to keep in mind that not every cat is psychologically suited for every household. For example, a particular cat may be very shy around strangers (perhaps as a result of some unpleasant experiences during his upbringing), so a home where strangers frequently visit may be too stressful an environment for that cat to be able to fully enjoy life. He may spend most of his time in hiding. A bold and confident cat, on the other hand, may welcome visitors and thrive in that type of home.
Moreover, while certain psychological traits may change with time, every individual feline (or person) has limits on how much he or she can change, so we have to recognize those kinds of limits and not continue pushing the animal to change because it can cause the pet unnecessary stress.
Avoiding triggers for a cat
Sometimes the easiest solution is the best. If you have a cat who is easily startled or frightened by sudden movements, you’ll simply want to do your best to make your cat feel at ease by avoiding making sudden movements.
Giving your cat the opportunity to retreat when fearful
Even more important than modifying your own behavior is always giving your cat the freedom to avoid or escape the things that startle or scare him. For example, if you do calisthenics in your living room every morning, make sure a door is open so that your cat can leave that room and relax elsewhere. For the incidents that frighten your cat but are unforeseeable (such as something falling over), just knowing that he can always get away allows an easily startled cat to live more comfortably and to not constantly be on guard that something will scare him and he won’t be able to escape.
Being sensitive to an anxious or scared cat
Because of the wide variety of sudden motions, there is no way to make an easily startled or shy cat comfortable around everything that might spook him. You can implement some commonsense measures, though, such as covering a window that looks out on children playing in the yard or cars speeding by. The bottom line is simply trying to be sensitive to your cat’s fears and doing what you can to mitigate the things that are causing them.