Bringing home a new cat is a magical time for you, but have you ever stopped to think about how it might appear to your kitten? After all, they’ve just been carried into a strange new environment by an unknown human, and they have no idea what might be in store for them next.
Your kitten may be frightened for other reasons, too. Maybe they’re injured and have to go to the vet’s office, or there might be thunder or fireworks in the area. Regardless of the cause, it’s vital that you can calm your cat down when necessary.
If you’re struggling to calm your kitten down, there are a few tried-and-true strategies that you can use to help them regain their composure. While every cat is different, and what works for one may not be effective with another, these strategies should help you soothe your anxious kitten in no time.
How to Calm a Scared Kitten
1. Stay Calm Yourself
Your cat will pick up on your energy levels, and if you’re nervous or jumpy, they will sense your scared energy. It may not be easy to calm yourself down if you’re scared for good reason, but if you can, stay calm and composed while interacting with your cat.
This is especially important with your tone of voice. Speak in low, soothing tones, and don’t make too much noise. You want to impress upon them that you are not a threat.
Move slowly and deliberately as well. Fear is an automatic response, and when larger animals move quickly, it often means they’re trying to eat you. Don’t put those thoughts in your cat’s mind.
Of course, being calm isn’t an option if a terrified kitten sinks every one of their claws into your skin. To that end, you should protect yourself before seeing to your cat, as you’re more likely to worsen the situation if you get injured.
2. Give Them Space
If you don’t have anywhere that you need to be with your cat, leave them alone. They’ll likely find a secure hidden spot to curl up, and they can calm themselves down from there. They’ll reemerge when they’re ready.
You can still help them, though. Staying calm is essential, and you may want to bring them food, water, or a blanket. If you have other animals or small children in the house, keep them away until the cat’s in a better mood.
You may also want to provide them with items that have a reassuring scent on them. This could be your dirty clothes, a blanket that they’ve used for a long time, or in the case of a kitten, something with the mother’s scent on it.
Don’t be tempted to use calming essential oils since they are highly toxic to cats.
3. Figure Out the Cause of the Fear
In some cases, the cause will be readily apparent, but you won’t be able to do anything about it. This is the case with a cat in a new environment, for example. In others, you may never know what’s making your cat nervous. All you can do in those cases is wait it out and offer whatever support you can.
If, however, you know the cause and you can do something about it, then by all means, help out. For example, if the cat’s scared of thunder, you can try to soundproof a room as much as possible, turn on soothing white noise, or put them in a thunder shirt.
If a cat is scared of someone or something (like a dog or a child), you’ll have to figure out a solution. This could mean arming yourself with patience and working with your veterinarian or animal behaviorist to do your best to make the relationship work. In the worst-case scenario, you might have to consider rehoming your dog or cat.
4. Offer Treats or Love
If the kitten is new to your household, you can slowly introduce yourself after they’ve had time to get acclimated to a small area in your home. This could mean offering them food or treats, slowly approaching them, and allowing them to sniff your hand.
Eventually, you can try to build up to offering them pets or other affection but don’t rush it. If you move too quickly, you could scare them and undo all the goodwill that you’ve built up. Let them set the pace.
However, if you’ve had the cat for a while and they’re familiar with you, you can be more proactive about offering them love. Gentle, rhythmic stroking can help calm them.
You should primarily focus on their chest area. Rubbing them in circles around their chest is soothing and can help slow down a racing heartbeat. Beyond that, if you don’t have one yet, it’s essential to have scratching posts around. Scratching is a natural instinctive behavior that cats love.
5. Don’t Force Anything
If your cat decides to run away rather than accept your affection, let them go (assuming they’re not running outside or somewhere dangerous). They’re giving you a clear signal that they want to be left alone, so don’t follow them.
Don’t assume that they want to be petted because they’re rubbing up on you and purring. Stay calm, don’t make sudden moves, and keep letting them set the pace.
They’ll likely go to their secluded spot to regroup, and you should give them the space they need. If they see you following behind them, they’ll assume you’re being aggressive.
If your cat goes outside, chasing them is a very bad idea. You’re better off trying to lure them back with treats or noting where they go and waiting to get them once they’ve calmed down. Of course, this action will be less nerve-wracking if your cat is microchipped and has a safe breakaway collar with their info on it.
6. Stick to a Routine
It’s best to maintain a routine with your cat. Feeding and playing with them at the same time every day will help them feel more secure. You don’t have to nail the times down to the second, but you should be in the general ballpark.
Having a visual or audio cue that denotes certain times is beneficial. For example, if it’s time to play, you could go to the toy box, get a bell, and shake it. Dinnertime usually has its own natural cues; the sound of the can opener or the noise you make rummaging around in the cabinet is all the signal a hungry cat needs.
7. Get a Prescription
If you’ve tried everything and your cat is still a nervous Nelly, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian or a behaviorist. They can teach you other strategies for keeping your cat calm, or they might recommend putting them on a prescription for anxiety.
If it’s gotten to this point, your cat is probably a special case, so you should listen to whatever your vet tells you rather than following advice on the internet.
A Calm Cat Is a Happy Cat
While the phrase “scaredy cat” may have a place in our lexicon, there’s no reason your cat must always be frightened. Using these strategies, you should be able to quickly calm your cat when they get nervous.
Not only will this make them happier, but it will also make them less likely to act impulsively. Impulsive cats have been known to bolt out front doors or run into busy streets. You want your cat to be calm and happy right there at home.
Featured Image Credit: Khamidulin Sergey, Shutterstock