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Published: Dec 31, 2012

Each cat has a unique personality, but some traits may be cause for concern. While many felines are independent or timid, it's not uncommon for these animals to develop phobias that can interfere with their daily lives. If you are the owner of a "'fraidy cat," then you can take measures to help your pet calm down and overcome his fears.

Understanding phobias
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, cats can develop fears for a number of reasons. Some may have had limited exposure to other animals or humans when they were young, and others might have suffered negative experiences living as strays or in shelters. Often, it only takes one bad experience to cause trauma in a feline, something that's known as "one trial learning." For instance, if a cat is mistreated by a child who is too young to know any better, he may demonstrate fear of children for years afterward. Other phobias develop after repeated negative experiences. Genetics, malnutrition or maternal neglect can also lead to fears in cats.

Identifying fear in your cat
If you are worried that your cat is suffering from a phobia, it's a good idea to take him to one of the nearby vet hospitals for a behavioral consultation. Intervening early may help cats with mild fears overcome their issues. Come to the vet prepared to give out information about the situations in which your cat demonstrates that he's frightened, and be ready to let your pet health expert know how high or low your cat's fears are at certain times.

Cat aggression is one of the major signs of fear in cats, and this can be demonstrated by dilated pupils, an arched pack, hissing or raised hair along the back. Some cats may alternatively try to appear smaller or become immobile. Felines might also scratch their owners or others when frightened, which could lead to cat scratch fever.

Treating your feline's phobia
There are ways to treat fear in cats, though the methods vary. Your vet may outline a behavior modification program, but first you'll need to find a way to control your pet by using a leash, harness or crate. Giving your pet treats during non-fearful times can help him associate positivity with calm emotions. Above all else, it's essential that you follow your veterinarian's advice during the training process.