Fearful Pets: Reasons Why and How to Help

By on August 4, 2023

Do you have a pet who is experiencing fear, and you want to know how to help? You want your pet to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted.

There are many different causes of fear in dogs and cats, including—a lack of socialization or separation anxiety. Sometimes pets can be wary when you bring them home, but the trick is making them feel loved and welcome. It is also common for pets to be fearful of the veterinarian.

Positive reinforcement is the greatest way to train your pets to be stable and confident. In this article, you will find reasons why pets are fearful, the signs of fear, and how to help.

Signs of Fear in Pets

Pets often exhibit fear through body language and vocalization. There are also other ways your pet can show they are a scaredy cat or petrified pup:

  • Freezing in place
  • Hiding or isolation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Outward aggression
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Barking or meowing excessively
  • Loss of control over bladder or bowels
  • Cowering with their body low to the ground

The above are relatively common examples, but each pet is different. If your pet demonstrates any of the above signs, they need your patience, understanding, and help.

Reasons for Fear

Sometimes fear results from a negative experience your pet had in the past, but the triggers are now more specific. The following include some of the reasons your pet may be fearful:

Separation Anxiety

Having a pet is a labor of love, and anytime you have a companion animal who has separation anxiety or is fearful when left alone, it requires some work on your part to help them feel more comfortable. According to the ASPCA, dogs with separation anxiety become agitated or depressed when their guardians leave the home. They may also try to prevent them from leaving, or they become destructive.

It is not just the pups that feel separation anxiety but also our furry feline friends. It can cause them to feel stressed, anxious, and fearful when their guardians leave them alone.

How to Help Your Dog or Cat with Separation Anxiety

To help your dog feel less fearful and anxious when you depart, you can take them out for some exercise to tire them out so they relax and sleep while you are away. Providing them with a crate with their favorite toys, a water bowl, treats, and a blanket is also helpful. For your cats, try playing with them before you go to help them associate your leaving with something positive.

Lack of Socialization

According to the American Kennel Club, if your dog is uncomfortable around people they do not know, you never want to force them to get acquainted with people by having them pet your pup. This contact can lead to unwanted aggression if your dog feels threatened. Instead, get them used to people by allowing your pup to be near them without interaction. Let them get comfortable with meeting new friends.

How to Help Your Dog or Cat Who Lack Socialization

Never punish your dog or cat if they do not behave as you would like, as that will make them more fearful. Using positive reinforcement with treats or petting can help them learn better. If you have a dog who lacks socialization, take them to a training class where they will be around other dogs and people.

Cats require a calm, soothing voice to make them feel less afraid of others. When you have guests, introduce them to your cat slowly. Just be sure to give them space when they need it.

They Are New Pets

New pets can be timid, especially if they come from a shelter situation. Dogs and cats from a shelter may feel unsafe and afraid, especially if abandoned or mistreated. Even new pets who do not have that background may feel uneasy coming into a new family. It is normal for a new pet to be hesitant to bond, but getting them to come out of their shell is essential.

How to Help Your New Pet

Be patient with your new pet; they will naturally acclimate to their new home. Try to keep things quiet and consistent and establish a routine. It will help them feel more comfortable when they know what to expect. Give them lots of love and treats from the start.

Visit to the Vet

Vet visits can be stressful and frightening to pets, but it is vital to their health and happiness that they see the vet annually or twice a year, depending upon their age and health status. Almost every cat who sees the cat carrier knows where they are going and is unhappy about it. Dogs can be more complex. Once again, positive reinforcement can be helpful.

How to Help Your Dog or Cat Not Be Afraid of the Vet

Getting your dog or cat accustomed to being handled is essential. Try giving them a “practice exam” at home. This exercise will help them become accustomed to human contact, and they may not be so upset or afraid when the vet does it. Also, if you remain calm, your pet will be less likely to be fearful.


Dogs and cats can be fearful for a variety of reasons. When afraid, they may demonstrate certain behaviors. Having a good relationship with your dog or cat is a gift. Our responsibility as pet parents is to help them with everything from assisting them to feel safe when they are alone to help them feel loved when they are new to your home

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