There may be a number of reasons why a cat may be scared, it can suddenly develop in a usually friendly and laid back cat, or it can be their nature in general.
Lack of human socialisation from kittenhood is a major cause of fear towards humans, individual personality (some cats are just more shy/nervous than others), environmental (a trip to the vet, a stranger in the house, being given a bath), past traumatic experience (being abused by a human, chased/attacked by a dog) a sick or injured cat may also be scared.
When a cat is scared, for whatever reason that may be, he is more likely to lash out in fear. Which means you need to be careful. A scared cat is capable of inflicting a great deal of damage.
Being able to read a cat’s body language is important to determine his current mood. A scared cat may exhibit the following signs.
Obviously, there are different levels of scared. A cornered feral cat or an injured cat will be very frightened. Other situations may be less severe, such as your cat just being a little scared of newcomers to the house. You have to assess each situation and cat on a case by case basis.
It is generally accepted that feral cats who have had no human contact after the age of seven weeks cannot be tamed. I am sure this isn’t always the case, but by this stage in their development, they have developed a fear of humans.
We can work with them to bring them out of their shell, but I have certainly found that it’s not always going to be possible to turn a shy cat into a friendly and outgoing cat. I have had two cats like this. One was scared and vicious, the other was timid. We worked hard to build trust and confidence in both cats, and to a degree, it helped, but they remained quite shy and frightened all their lives.
Food and play therapy can go a long way in building the trust of a scared or timid cat as you begin to associate yourself with “fun and pleasant” things. If you have a timid cat, try to lure him out with small cat treats. Don’t ever force the issue, just sit close by and offer a treat, as he comes closer to you, give him more, until he is close enough to gently touch and stroke.
Another/similar method to the above is to coax him out with a cat toy (generally a wand type toy is best for this), get him closer and closer to you. Hopefully, he will be distracted by the toy and forget his fear.
I think to a degree, we should accept our cats for who they are and that may include a fear of strangers. Obviously, it is not ideal if your cat is afraid of the veterinarian as he will need to see the vet every now and then for check-ups, vaccinations, and medical treatment.
However, if in the home, they are not keen on visitors you have two options. Build up the trust of your cat by having your visitors play with, or give your cat treats, or just accept that he’s shy and leave him to it.
I think it is important to always provide your cat with a safe haven where they know they can retreat to without people bothering them. That may be a dark corner in the wardrobe and or a cat tree where they can observe the world from a safe height.
Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a flower essence which can help calm a scared or anxious cat. Add four drops to your cat’s food or water.
Play and food therapy can help to build up trust and confidence.
Give your cat a safe place to hide or retreat when he feels fearful or overwhelmed. This can be a corner in the wardrobe, an enclosed bed/cat carrier and or a cat tree.
If the above methods don’t help, speak to your veterinarian about drug therapy. This should not be a long-term solution but used long enough to help build up trust and confidence in your cat using the above methods (Source:Cat-World).