Do Cats Get Insecure? The Surprising Truth About Feline Self-Doubt


Many pet owners understandably assume that cats don’t experience feelings of insecurity. After all, cats are known for their independence and seemingly stoic demeanor. However, despite appearances, cats can and do feel insecure at times. Insecurity in cats may be triggered by changes in their environment, introductions of new pets or people, or even their own changing physical capabilities as they age. While it may not be obvious at first, there are telltale signs of insecurity in cats. Understanding the causes, signs, and solutions for feline insecurity can help concerned owners provide reassurance and restore their cat’s confidence.

What is Insecurity in Cats?

Insecurity in cats refers to feelings of uncertainty, lack of confidence, and anxiety. Insecure cats may not feel safe or comfortable in their environment or situation. This can lead to problematic behaviors as they try to cope with their insecurities.

Some common signs of insecurity in cats include: hiding, aggressive behaviors like hissing or biting, excessive vocalizations like meowing or yowling, obsessive grooming, urinating outside the litter box, being too clingy or distant, and changes in personality. An insecure cat may act out as a way to establish control and security in their environment. They are essentially compensating for their internal lack of confidence and certainty.

Causes of Insecurity

There are several potential causes of insecurity in cats. One of the most common is a lack of socialization, especially during kittenhood. Kittens that do not receive adequate positive exposure to people, other animals, and novel situations during this critical developmental stage often become fearful and insecure later in life according to this article.

Sudden changes to a cat’s home or routine can also trigger insecurity. Major changes like moving homes, introducing new pets, or losing a family member disrupt a cat’s sense of safety and lead to anxious behaviors reports this source. Even subtle changes like rearranging furniture or altering feeding schedules can be stressful.

Finally, negative experiences like abuse, trauma, or neglect make cats feel insecure and fearful. According to the PAWS organization, cats that have undergone a frightening or painful event will be on high alert for future threats, causing ongoing anxiety.

Effects on Behavior

Insecurity can lead to various problematic behaviors in cats. Some of the most common include:

Aggression – An insecure cat may show aggression toward other pets or even their owner. They feel threatened and may hiss, swat, or bite when approached or touched in certain areas. According to, aggression is a common sign of insecurity due to fear, anxiety, or frustration in cats.

Hiding and avoidance – Insecure cats tend to hide more often and avoid social interactions. They may hide under furniture, in closets, or in hard-to-reach areas out of fear. Cats that hide due to insecurity usually only come out to eat or use the litter box when they feel it’s safe. As explained on, an insecure cat may keep their body low and avoid direct eye contact.

Excessive vocalization – Anxious meowing, yowling, growling, or other excessive vocalizations can indicate an insecure cat. They may cry when left alone or make loud sounds when approached, as noted in This vocalizing stems from fear, mistrust, and the need to protect themselves.

Destructive behaviors – In some cases, insecure cats may engage in destructive actions like urinating outside the litter box or scratching furniture. According to, these behaviors can reflect an insecure cat’s anxiety and attempt to regain control of their environment.

Improving Security

There are several ways cat owners can help insecure cats feel more safe and secure in their environment:

Establishing a consistent routine is very important for cats. Feeding them at the same times every day and having a predictable schedule will provide stability and help them feel more secure. As creatures of habit, cats thrive on routine. According to [1], “Stick to a routine. Few things please a cat more than routine.”

Providing safe spaces and hiding spots is also key. Cats need places they can retreat to in order to feel secure, like cat trees, cardboard boxes, igloos, etc. Per [2], “They need their own space.” Having areas just for the cat can help them relax.

Using positive reinforcement training can build confidence in insecure cats. Rewarding brave or relaxed behavior with treats helps cats associate new things as positive. Praise can also help reinforce calm and secure behavior.

Finally, counterconditioning gradually exposes cats to triggers in a positive way. For example, if a vacuum is scary, pairing it with treats can change the cat’s perception. As noted by [3], “Insecure cats can be helped by improving their environment.” Making adjustments like this can significantly improve security.

With routine, safe spaces, positive associations, and counterconditioning, cat owners can help insecure cats become more confident and secure in their surroundings.

When to Seek Help

There are some situations when it’s a good idea to consult a professional about your cat’s insecurities:

If problem behaviors like aggression or inappropriate urination persist despite your best efforts to modify the environment and improve your cat’s security, it’s a sign that professional guidance may be needed. According to this source, persistent problem behaviors can indicate an underlying medical issue or a need for medication or behavioral therapy.

Watch for signs that your cat is experiencing ongoing anxiety or stress related to feeling insecure, like excessive grooming, hiding, or vocalizing. If your cat seems chronically unhappy or unable to relax, a vet visit is in order.

If your cat’s insecurities are severely impacting their quality of life and ability to function day-to-day, that’s a sign that professional intervention could help provide some much-needed security. As this article notes, consulting a vet, behaviorist, or trainer may be key to helping an extremely insecure cat regain confidence and comfort.


Anti-anxiety medications can help reduce anxiety and insecurity in cats. Some commonly prescribed medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and clomipramine (Clomicalm) (PetMD). These selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants can be effective in cats by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

Other medications like buspirone, benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), and gabapentin may also be used for short-term anxiety relief. However, benzos can cause dependency so are not ideal for long-term use.

These medications should only be given under the guidance of a veterinarian, as inappropriate use can lead to side effects like lethargy, restlessness, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Veterinary behaviorists can help determine if medication is appropriate for a cat’s specific anxiety triggers and symptoms.

Environmental Changes

Making some changes to your cat’s environment can help them feel more secure. One way is through the use of synthetic pheromones, which can have a calming effect. As the study at explains, products like Feliway contain cat facial pheromones that can reduce stress behaviors.

Providing hiding spots and high perches allows a cat to observe their surroundings safely. As revealed at, platforms and enclosed beds let cats retreat when needed.

If a cat is timid around other pets, separating their resources can establish a safe zone. Multiple food bowls, litter boxes and resting areas allows them to avoid contact when desired.

Training and Play

One of the best ways to help an insecure cat gain more confidence is through training and play. Using positive reinforcement techniques like clicker training can be highly effective. The clicker marks the exact moment your cat does something right, allowing you to reward desired behaviors.

Playtime is also important for building confidence. Be sure to let your cat initiate play and use interactive toys like wands and feather teasers. And don’t forget to incorporate special praise and treats during play sessions. This helps your cat associate play and interaction with you as positive experiences.

You can also use play to help countercondition and desensitize an insecure cat to things that worry them. For example, if your cat is afraid of strangers, have a friend participate in a play session by moving the toy around. Over multiple sessions, reward calm and relaxed behavior around the friend to make new people a source of good things.

Building your cat’s confidence through training and play is an excellent way to improve insecurities. Be patient and keep sessions low-stress, frequent, and filled with praise and rewards. With time, your cat can gain the self-assurance to feel more secure and happy day-to-day.


In summary, insecurity in cats is often caused by changes in their environment, lack of socialization and handling, or a traumatic experience. Insecure cats may exhibit anxious behaviors like hiding, aggression, or excessive vocalization. To help an insecure cat feel more secure, focus on building trust through scheduled feedings and play time, creating a predictable routine, using calming pheromones, and making environmental modifications if necessary. With time, patience, and positive reinforcement an insecure cat’s confidence can be restored.

It’s important for cat owners to be understanding and proactive when dealing with an insecure cat’s problematic behaviors. Punishment will only make matters worse. Seek advice from your veterinarian and animal behaviorists if your cat’s insecurity seems extreme. With the proper care and attention, your cat can become more relaxed and affectionate.

For more tips, resources and information, check out the ASPCA’s guidelines on reducing fear and anxiety in cats. You can also talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication options that may help in certain situations. Most of all, remember that insecure cats need extra love, reassurance and stability. With time and effort, they can thrive in their forever homes.

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