Cat suddenly scared of everything?
December 6, 2012 8:52 PM   Subscribe

My usually-bold cat is suddenly scared of everything (sudden movements, noises), and acting like he is seeing something that is not there.

He previously had struvite crystals in his bladder a few months ago which were removed with surgery, but recovered well. Are these two incidents related?

My only other explanation is that a huge earthquake is about to hit the Bay Area and this is my cat's way of warning me in vain. Calling my vet first thing tomorrow but just want to hear a few hypotheses to soothe my frayed nerves...! I couldn't play the pet version of WebMD because lots of people have cats that are scared all the time or during stressful events like moving, rather than an acute development of fright.

Obligatory cat photo here
posted by angermanagement to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cats will get strange about things that are hard to account for. Did you start wearing a hat? (That's also a pet peeve of horses - get a new hat and suddenly you have a weird horse.) Did someone new move next door who has funny-smelling cooking or a girl cat? Are you having issues that manifest subtly but pretty soft cat can tell? Do you have a cold or the flu? All these things have set my cats off in the past.
posted by jet_silver at 9:07 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cats I have had reacted to critters in the walls and/or new critters outside Are you in mountain lion country? or possibly have a new neighbor with an outdoor cat? Either may actually be something your cat is hearing/smelling and therefore reacting to.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2012

jet_silver and restless_nomad: No hat. It's just strange that he is reacting even to innocuous sources like me setting down a cup too...when he's usually pretty insensitive to most stimuli....?
posted by angermanagement at 9:13 PM on December 6, 2012

When my childhood cat was aware of a TRESPASSER on his LAWN OMG he was a danger to anyone who approached him - he was just hyperstimulated in general. Almost took my arm off once, when I walked up behind him.

Not that it's a bad idea to call your vet, but maybe glance outside (or do so in the morning, if you're in a rural area and it might be an actual predator.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:15 PM on December 6, 2012

restless_nomad: I live in a condominium, so hopefully there are no mountain lions nearby!
posted by angermanagement at 9:18 PM on December 6, 2012

My cat can sometimes spook himself, like knocking over a pile of dishes or jumping straight into the coffee table. It took him a few days to recover from the Blue Angels practicing. He also gets really excitable this time of year as the foundation is settling and the pipes make weird noises. I'll find him staring at the wall intently for 15 minutes.

His vision isn't great, so he's more accident prone than most, and also more focused on noise or smell stimuli that neither I or my other cat notice.
posted by politikitty at 9:24 PM on December 6, 2012

politikitty: Is your cat usually calm and rarely spooks himself? My main concern is that I have had my cat for over 2 years now and this is the first time I've seen him like this!
posted by angermanagement at 9:30 PM on December 6, 2012

This happened to my cat when he had thyroid problems. His personality seemed to change overnight - he went from a very friendly, affectionate cat to one who ran away when he saw me and seemed scared of everything.

A prescription for the thyroid issues sorted it out pretty quickly.
posted by RubyScarlet at 9:31 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks RubyScarlet--this is a potential issue I will bring up with my vet! If anyone else has other medical explanations, please post them!
posted by angermanagement at 9:35 PM on December 6, 2012

I think consulting the vet is in order whenever the cat's behavior changes suddenly... having said that, if he's still eating, drinking water and using the litterbox, it is probably not urgent, so don't be too concerned.

Is it possible that some frightening event happened while you were out? You didn't mention if he goes outside... If he got in a fight or narrowly avoided some confrontation, maybe he's still spooked from that. I had a cat that once got her leg stuck in a plastic bag, and for the rest of her life the crinkling sound would send her cowering. Had another cat who was afraid of thunder, fireworks and the sound of rain, and he wouldn't be back to normal until hours afterward or the next day.

Hopefully it's nothing serious and your vet puts your mind at ease! Keep us updated, please.

P.S. As a fellow Bay Area resident, I hope it's not the earthquake thing. :)
posted by perryfugue at 9:48 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my cats undergoes a personality transplant from mellow to "fucking crazy" when the weather changes and a front blows through. It started rather suddenly when he was about five, and now he's better than a barometer. (I theorize he has terrible sinuses, like me, but I don't have any idea if cats even have sinuses.) Anyway if there's a big storm coming, that might be it.

Did you move any furniture? My usually-very-mellow cat would become totally panicked and hide from things when I moved even just a chair a few feet over. He'd act like every piece of furniture was out to devour him for a week or two before he got used to it and settled back down.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:54 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

perryfugue: Thanks for the reassurance! He is eating at least for now. He never goes outside, but I don't know what misadventures he gets up to when I'm not home.

Eyebrows McGee: Hrm, not sure if there are weather changes coming up but I will keep that in mind! No furniture movement recently...
posted by angermanagement at 10:02 PM on December 6, 2012

Is it possible there is something scurrying around in your ceiling or walls? It's the right season for that kind of thing to start up.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:21 PM on December 6, 2012

Acting like there is something there when there isn't is a type of psychosis and can be a really serious neurological symptom. You need to see a vet as soon as you can. If he starts salivating excessively (drooling not just a happy spit bubble or two) or walking with a high stepping gait then it's an emergency.
posted by shelleycat at 12:13 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

This may be off the wall, but if the cat is only two years old, maybe she suffers from something like seasonal affective disorder?
posted by gjc at 5:55 AM on December 7, 2012

When there is a mouse about and my cats are spending quality time in hunt mode they get weird about things - either attacking or cautiously avoiding a stray sock or a bit of dust.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2012

One time when I was a teenager, both of our cats started acting weird and squirrelly for a couple of days. We found out that it was because a 3-foot-long rat snake had fallen down the chimney, where he was presumably attempting to snack on chimney swifts, and come out into the house. I found him only because we'd left, I'd forgotten something, and came back and discovered him in the living room. (We figured out it was the fireplace after seeing slither marks in the ash.)
posted by telophase at 1:12 PM on December 7, 2012

Thank you everyone for their replies--my vet said that hyperthyroidism is unlikely at his age (2-3 years old), and to visit her in a few days if things don't improve to check for neurological symptoms. Hopefully he'll get better on his own!
posted by angermanagement at 6:08 PM on December 7, 2012

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