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What is Extreme Fear and Anxiety?

Fear and anxiety can be difficult for both your cat and your family. A loss of appetite or destructive behavior could lead to illness or injury for your four-legged friend. The fear and anxiety can also cause your cat to become aggressive towards other pets and members of your household.

Cats experience extreme fear and anxiety when a situation becomes too much for them to handle. A stressful situation can bring on feelings ranging from mild fear to anxiety. A current situation, fear of the unknown, or memory of an event can trigger these feelings in your cat.

Symptoms of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Cats

Your cat may display the following symptoms due to feelings of extreme fear and anxiety:

  • Hiding and withdrawal
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Visible shaking or trembling
  • Soiling or spraying around house
  • Aggressive or destructive behavior

Causes of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Cats

Extreme fear and anxiety can be caused by a variety of situations. You may notice a change in your cat due to the following causes:

  • Illness or injury
  • Separation anxiety
  • Traumatic experience
  • Loud or startling noises
  • Changes in household
  • Unfamiliar people, animals or environment
  • Roughness from people
  • Bullying from other animals
  • Car or plane rides
  • Confinement, such as sitting inside a crate or carrier
  • Lack of social environment
  • Unclean litter box

If your cat is sick, injured or does not feel safe, they may start displaying the clinical signs of extreme fear and anxiety.

Diagnosis of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Cats

It may be difficult to take your cat to the veterinarian when they are displaying signs of fear and anxiety. However, your veterinarian needs to make sure the symptoms are not related to another health issue. Your veterinarian will talk to you about their symptoms and medical history. You should also expect to discuss any events that may contribute to their fear. You can help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis by writing down the symptoms and behavior changes your cat is displaying.

There is always a chance an illness, injury or toxic exposure is the cause of their fear and anxiety. A physical exam and blood test can identify or rule out another health condition.

It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms or behavior changes. The key is to identify the problem and help your cat to feel comfortable with the situation.

Treatment of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Cats

The treatment of extreme fear and anxiety is done on an individual basis. You may be given training techniques to try at home, or your cat may need to be hospitalized while your veterinarian works with them.


Your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help with the fear and anxiety. This may include something to treat their illness, injury or motion sickness, as well as . Your cat may need to stay at the hospital until the medication starts to work.

Behavior Therapy 

Your cat may need training to change their behavior and help them cope with their fears. Your veterinarian may recommend visiting a behavior therapist for extreme anxiety.

Training At Home

You should always talk to your veterinarian before starting any training at home. Your veterinarian can provide tips on how to train your cat based on their own fears and anxiety. One example would be training your cat to sit inside their carrier during a car drive. Start by keeping your cat as comfortable as possible, such as placing their favorite blanket inside their carrier. Small steps are essential to getting your cat used to the situation. It may start with your cat sitting in their carrier for several minutes and end with a short car drive around the block. Be sure to give your cat plenty of love, attention and encouragement so they feel safe. You should always avoid punishment because this could make your cat feel worse.

The training depends on your cat, the situation and discussion with your veterinarian. What works for one cat may not work for another cat, and you want to come up with a training routine that is just right for your furry friend. 

Recovery of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Cats

Extreme fear and anxiety are not known as life-threatening conditions, but it is still important to schedule a follow-up appointment with your veterinarian. This way, you can check the progress of the treatment and make sure your cat has not developed any other conditions.

It could take a while to help your cat cope with their fears, and there is a chance your cat is just naturally anxious. The best thing you can do is work with your veterinarian, train your cat to cope with anxiety and avoid stressful situations whenever possible.

Extreme Fear and Anxiety Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

7 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Occasional trembling, hiding

My boy just got neutered and front declawed (please, no comments from readers about declawing) and he had to stay at vet office 2 nights and until 5 on friday... the surgeries seem to have gone well... but he has been having tremors on occasion and will hide... Could this be from the separation anxiety as he has never been away from home for that long? And if so how do I help him? Or is something else possibly going on? His surgery will have been 2 weeks ago this coming Wednesday. He is starting to play... but still has these incidents.

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Domestic shorthair
11 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


Medication Used


My 11year old male house cat has always been loving and friendly but the past 2 days he has been extremely vicious and aggressive towards me and it has been unprovoked. 2 months ago we said goodbye to his brother so i dont know if its possibly bereavement or physical issues. =I have bought a calming spray which has helped a lot but he is still turning on me occasionally. Would the spray have helped at all if it was a physical cause?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1608 Recommendations
It might be a good idea to have Digit examined by a veterinarian to make sure that there is not a physical cause, as sometimes if cats are painful or sick, they will become more aggressive in defense. If he is physically healthy, the spray might help, as might time and learning to read his body language to avoid the redirected aggression towards you. There may also be something in the environment that you are not aware of that is causing him stress and causing him to lash out. If he goes outside, the chances of that are increased. He may benefit from anti-anxiety medications in the short term, and that is something that you can discuss with his veterinarian, as they can examine him and see if that would be appropriate. I hope that all goes well for him.

Thanks. The spray has helped alot. I used Pet Remedy'. It smells of manure but i dont care if it calms my cat. We are going to the vets tomorrow so hopefully its nothing physical an he will be ok.

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10 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms


My cat lost her owner suddenly passed away. I took her in she was fine until recently. I notice sometimes she will got by his picture and sit there. She is eating and playing, she goes to the little box, only on odd occasions, her paw will touch the litter and will not go, I will have to wash her little box with hot water and refill with clean litter and there she will go. Sometimes she gets a little spooked. I spoke to the pet store at they recommended HomeoPet D-stress which seems to be working, been using it the last 3 days, she is more playful now. She grooms herself every since I know her. I can rub her tummy and she is okay. I know she was left behind in the house by herself while her owner was in the hospital.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1608 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Cesar or knowing what sort of time frame we are talking about, I'm not sure that I can offer any great insight into her behavior. Some cats are very particular about a clean litter box, and that may solve her problems. It seems that she is feeling better since starting the HomeoPet-D-Stress, although I am not familiar with that product. If she seems to be becoming more normal in her behavior, you may be able to continue to monitor her.

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Dsh calico
2 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Hissing, growling, and cowering

My 2 yr old cat Kayleigh was rescued from animal control a year ago. She was always caged with other cats. Just recently she was diagnosed with separation anxiety. We got that under control. I also recently started fostering another cat who is 10. Kayleigh is extremely fearful of her. So much so that if she smells the other cat on me she starts to hiss and attack me until she realizes I’m not the cat. We have tried gabapentin and trazodone to no avail. I also have the feliway multicat diffuser and things aren’t getting any better. I honestly don’t know what else to do to help Kayleigh with her fear and feel completely helpless. Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
In cases like this it can be very difficult to resolve with some cases resulting in one of the cats leaving the household, keeping both cats in close proximity (in individual cat carriers) may help ease Kayleigh’s fear and may get her used to the smell of the other cat before a controlled introduction. However, there is no sure fire way to get this permanently resolved. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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