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Is My Cat Scared Or Playing? (Beware: Lookout For This…)

If you enjoy playing with your cat but have noticed some weird body language in response you may be wondering if it is part of the game or if it is scared of you…

Is my cat scared or playing?

To work out if your cat is genuinely scared or just playing you need to look out for their body language. For example, does it appear to be hiding, and not coming out? Is its hair standing up from fear? These are bad signs that is scared and not playing.

So, now you know. But, how can you be sure if your cat is not scared? How do you know when your cat just wants to play? Does their personality play a part in this? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

How can you tell if a cat is scared?

Why do cats get scared easily?

A scared-looking cat

There are several signs to look out for to check if your cat is scared or not. For example, is your cat hissing? Trying to bite you? Unexpextingly peeing in your home? These are tell-tale signs that your cat is scared.

Once you see these signs it’s a good idea to stop what you are doing, take a mental note so you do not repeat this in the future.

How do I know if my cat wants to play?

To work out if your cat wants to play you need to monitor its actions. For example, its head movement, is it walking towards you looking you in the eye? Then this means it wants your attention and likely would appreciate playing (what about galloping? click here) with you.

Sometimes these signals can be mixed up with, for example, a request for food. But, typically a food request is followed up with a Meow (click here if it’s a weird deep meow).

Could my cat get overexcited when I’m playing with her?

Some cats can get overexcited during playtime, especially when you are using your hand to aggressively rub their fur, for example. One thing that can trigger this is stroking their fur backward, most cats hate this.

If you notice this happening then stop what you are doing and make sure that you give your cat some time to calm down before offering any strokes or petting.

Do cats like it when you play with them?

Cats love it when you play with them. This helps them physically and can also help them mentally. Also, it helps to solidify the bond you have as their owner.

Why are cats scared all the time?

This can be because they feel separated from their biological mother, had bad experiences in their past, which has destroyed their confidence, feel unsettled by new family members, and various other reasons.

Now you understand why they are so scared at a high level, let me explain in detail why each of these issues occurs if it’s normal for them to be like this, how to avoid picking up a cat that may act like this and so much more. Keep reading…

Why are cats scared all the time?

Cats are naturally scared of things. Have you ever heard of the saying: “Don’t be a scaredy-cat?”. Well, it’s based on reality and inspired by the behavior of many cats.

You will find that cats are scared of many things including loud noises. They have sensitive hearing. Anything loud is likely to scare them off.

Separation Issues

There are theories that cats are typically scared and fearful because they were separated from their mother and surrounded by a world of humans. They typically trust their cat owner and that’s it. Anyone else could be a concern for them.

Abused cats may react worse…

You will find out abused or stray cats are even more fearful of humans. This is understandable,  anyone would assume if you’ve had a bad experience with people, then you are likely to be more cautious going forward, right?

Moving to a new home

If you move to a new home you may find that your cat is acting a bit scared. This is because a new environment poses new risks. And, they are unfamiliar with the area. These skittish cats can even get anxious on the journey to the new home, in their carrier.

Loud appliances

This includes things such as blenders, microwaves, etc. Basically, anything that beeps, bangs, rumbles, or makes sounds that your cat’s not familiar with. This can make them feel scared and worried and fearful.

New family members

Unfortunately, even if you have a little cute baby that has been introduced to your family it can make your cat fearful.

The baby makes lots of noise, weird squeaks, and sounds that your cat is not familiar with. So, unfortunately, you may find it doesn’t take to the new bubba very well. Especially, in the early days. In time, after it has time to settle in, you may see that this will change.

Cucumbers (Really?)

Believe it or not, cats are really scared of cucumbers (click here to see why cats fear cucumbers). There are several reasons why they are scared of this (Check out my article above for the full scoop).

How personality types affect your cat

As you can expect, humans have different personality types and traits. They affect people in different ways. Meaning, they react to certain things and sounds very different.

This is similar behavior for cats. Every cat is different and has the ability to react differently.

Therefore it’s important to identify how your cat behaves in certain situations to ascertain if it is ideal for them to be in a certain environment, are you with me?

Let me give you an example…

Let’s say that you run a very busy shop in the town center. And, you have a pet cat that works with you.

If you have a very timid cat, that is scared of people (You know, very shy and reserved). It is probably not a good idea to have that cat anywhere near that store, know what I mean?


Because that cat will constantly be in fear. It is not right for that cat to be in that environment. Its personality type does not match its environment.

However, on the other hand, if you have a cat that is very bold and loves to meet new people. Then, this might be the ideal environment for him.

Understand this, it is important not to try and push a cat beyond its comfort level. Because this would be going against the grain. It will cause your cat a lot of stress and headache. And, let’s be honest, you’re the one that has to deal with it, right?

The importance of giving your cat an escape route.

Can Birman cats go outside?

A cat outside.

Focusing on changing your cat’s behavior or personality type is one thing. But, to be honest it’s not always realistic.

Therefore, you should be more interested in learning how you can deal with your cat. Having an escape route for a scared cat is, in my opinion, mandatory.

But let me give you an example of this…

Let’s say that you have a particularly scaredy-cat and you know this. Let’s say you were doing some form of exercise, such as yoga (can you protect these mats? click here). You are in your front room, and you have noticed, from previous bad experiences, your cat does not like your loud music while you exercise.

In this situation, it is a good idea to have a door open or a cat flap available. This is so he can make his way out of the room, He can then go into his safety zone, where he feels comfortable.

You can use this example for many other situations that may make your cat feel uncomfortable and adapt it as you may.

Is it normal for a cat to be hiding all the time?

If you have a real scaredy-cat, and you are finding it hard to get him to come out because he is always hiding. For example, hiding under a bed or in some concealed position in your house.

It is easy to wonder if this is normal behavior or not. To be honest, this is not normal, in my opinion. But, it is quite common.

The unfortunate thing about this is, it can make a disappointing pet. Especially if you have a very busy household with multiple kids, a spouse, and maybe even grandparents.

How do you deal with this?

The best way to deal with this is to be patient and try and work around the problem, patiently. Rather than trying to force a cat to do something, it doesn’t really want to do. Also, when you need to transport them make sure you get a cat carrier that caters to scared cats (Click here to see my best 3).

How can you check for a nervous kitten before they turn into an adult?

A scared looking kitten.

A scared-looking kitten.

I understand you may be looking for a new kitten and you’ve heard people talk about the problems they have with their existing kitten or adult cat acting scared and reserved (can this make them pee? click here).

But how do you avoid this happening to you? In particular, before you actually choose and pick up the kitten?

The reality is it is quite hard to get this done perfectly. But, there are some logical steps that you can follow to reduce the risk of this happening. Let’s discuss now…

Checking their background

Firstly choosing A reputable breeder that breeds pedigree cats would be a very good start. You may have to pay slightly more for these cats but, in the long run, it will be beneficial to you.

Avoiding Ferrell or Wildcats

Checking the history, as I mentioned earlier, is critical. Another thing that will help is to find out if the cats have been gathered from the wild. Check if they are from a group of feral cats (Click here to see how feral cats deal with fleas).

Trust me, if they are wild or feral, you will find it very hard to tame and gain their trust. If you’re lucky, with time and a lot of work,  you might be able to get it to trust you personally.

But, you will find that any other human being that it comes into contact with it will not have the same trust. And, any loud noise may trigger it to run for the hills.

Should you tiptoe around your nervous or anxious cat?

If you have problems with a scared or anxious cat (will this make them fart? Click here) it may feel instinctive for you to tread very carefully around them and tiptoe around your house, to try and make them feel more comfortable.

Unfortunately, you will find that this will not benefit you.

You may find it may work in reverse because your cat is not getting a realistic view of how day-to-day domestic life is.

And, if they start to get used to you tiptoeing around them, and a visitor comes round, they will get a taste of reality and go back into their shell.

So, what is the right way to do it?

Good question, in my opinion, the best way to do it is to avoid giving them direct eye contact, tiptoeing around the house, and acting weird.

Direct eye contact and facing them as they entered the room makes them feel under pressure and the focal point of attention. This should be avoided.

Therefore, when you do this it makes them want to run away because they feel threatened by you.

I understand you mean well. It’s quite hard to not act in this way. But, if you want your cat to snap out of it and feel comfortable around humans and day-to-day domestic life, you need to stop it.

Ignoring the kitten and making him feel invisible

The best way to do it is to conduct your day-to-day life and avoid direct eye contact with the cat. It sounds a bit harsh, but almost as if the cat doesn’t exist.

As crazy as this sounds it allows your cat to start to feel comfortable around you and seek you out when it feels comfortable with you.

Don’t get me wrong this could take a long time and a lot of persistence. But, in time if you stick with it they will seek you out and start to come to you. And, gradually, they will start to trust and feel comfortable around you.

Lindsey Browlingdon