Many felines develop fears or phobias during their lifetime that may begin to cause problems for their owners. For example, some cats will become afraid of people or other animals and will exhibit unwanted behavior in these situations. Common signs of fear include cowering, pulling the ears back, hiding or possibly becoming aggressive and hissing.
Fears typically develop during what veterinarians refer to as the socialization period, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. This period occurs between the ages of 3 to 9 weeks. It's extremely important that the cat is exposed to a number of different people, animals and situations and has positive experiences during this time, as negative interactions or the lack of proper exposure may lead to the development of fears and phobias later on.
However, some owners may have obtained their cat after the socialization stage has passed or the behavior may have another cause. In these cases, intervention will be necessary if the owner wants to change the cat's behavior. Veterinarians may be able to suggest a behavior modification program that the owner can undertake in order to train the feline to conquer its fears.
Behavior modification typically includes using food rewards in order to encourage cats to have positive associations with the stimuli in question, slowly building up the feline's confidence before reintroducing the person, animal or object that originally made the cat nervous or fearful.