7 weird things cats are scared of

Spooked cat
(Image credit: Getty)

If you have a very jumpy cat who is scared of his own shadow or scurries away at the sound of a sneeze, you’ll be glad to know, this is common. The term ‘scaredy-cat’ had to get its name from somewhere, right?

While we humans can be quite timid creatures and have our own irrational fears, cats certainly bank up a fair few weird things that they’re scared of. You are probably nodding at this if you’ve ever had to lure your cat out from hiding under the bed with some of the best cat toys.

Whether you own a very sheltered indoor cat who you feel is rarely exposed to anything scary or you have an adventurous outdoors cat who loves to go out on hunts, there’s bound to be something on the list below that your furry friend jumps at.

Seven weird things cats are scared of

1) Water

Although cats can swim, it’s more of ‘I’ll only use this skill if I need to go into survival mode’ rather than an ‘Oh that bathtub looks like fun’ kind of attitude towards water. 

One reason why is outlined in this study published in the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science Science (opens in new tab) journal, which found cats have more sensitive noses than canines and humans. Sense of smell is crucial to cats as it helps them suss out new environments and helps them with hunting. A kitty’s sensitive nose will pick up chemicals and dissolved matters present in water and therefore avoid going near it.

2) Staring at them 

Next time you go to have a staring contest with a cat, don’t bother. Despite their sassy natures, cats are quite self-conscious and are said to interpret you staring at them as threatening behavior. While it may be entertaining to have a stare-off with your kitty, make sure you blink to let them know you aren’t targeting them as an aggressor. 

3) Changes in routine 

Our feline pets are creatures of habit so be wary that making any changes to their routine or environment may trigger worry and fear in your moggy. Perhaps you’ve changed the location of their bed or are trying them out on a new diet with some of the best cat food and this may be why you’re kitty looks concerned or is spending a lot more time on its own. 

We can’t always help changes from happening, for example, you may have to switch up your cat’s feeding times if you’ve just got a new job or welcomed a newborn into the home. But you can try to ease big changes so that your kitten can slowly adapt to its new routine or surroundings.

4) Loud noises 

According to Cats on Broadway Veterinary Hospital (opens in new tab), cats can hear sounds around 1.6 octaves higher than humans and one octave greater than dogs. They can also hear loud noises from far away, about four to five times farther away than people can. So don’t be surprised to witness your kitten jumping out of its fur from a noise that you barely noticed. 

5) Strangers 

People who are dog lovers at heart might be offended when your kitten doesn’t go bounding over to them greeting them with lots of friendly licks and a wagging tail. Cats are different, by nature and by the way they have been raised. Depending on the level of socialization they experienced as a kitten may impact how cats interact with strangers in adulthood. 

6) Odors 

As touched on above, cats have extremely heightened senses and aren’t so fond of a few very particular scents. Cats are said to dislike the smell of anything strongly acidic like citrus fruits - don’t be offended if your kitty darts off next time you unpeel a tangerine. Certain herbs and plants can deter cats including, lavender, marigolds, lemon thyme, and rue. This is good news for any of your green finger neighbors desperate to keep any feline lurkers well away from their plants.

Other scents cat owners have noticed cats bolting away from is vinegar (this is a pretty potent one for us all), ground coffee, and essential oils. 

 7) Mirrors

It turns out, cats aren’t overly vain and some moggies will jump at the sight of themselves in a mirror. Cats don’t recognize themselves in the mirror so it’s understandable if they think it’s another cat staring back at them. This can especially confuse them as they won’t smell the usual scent they’d get from another feline creature. There is no need to clear out all the mirrors in your place but perhaps away from areas of your home where your cat typically likes to relax.  

If you’re looking for more ways to keep your cat distracted from its fears you should check out the best interactive cat toys. Or find out here how to stop your cat peeing on the carpet

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

 Jessica is Staff Writer at PetsRadar who joined the team after spending over a year writing for the brand’s sister site, Fit&Well. She is an avid dog spotter whilst out for her weekly runs and brings to the team a passion for creating informative and helpful digital content, which she has been putting to practice since graduating with a degree in Magazine Journalism in 2021.