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Why Does My Cat Run Away From Me

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I can only imagine what our kitties think when our tall and clumsy bodies move towards them. Some might be used to it by now, some might be new to it altogether and some might choose to flee.

If it was a stray cat, I’m sure we wouldn’t take it too personally, but if it’s our resident kitty giving us the cold shoulder, then we might see it as a rejection.

Before we let our pride take over, we should ask ourselves:

Why does my cat run away from me? If your cat runs away when you approach to pick or pet them, then they might feel threatened or uncomfortable. Even if your cat loves you, they may not trust you yet. Building mutual trust and accepting your cat’s boundaries can bring you closer- but it might take time. 

If want to find out, why your cat may be giving you the cold shoulder let’s dig a little deeper into some of the possible reasons.

Why Does My Cat Run Away From Me?

Most of us probably know by now that our kitties can be quite the mischievous little creatures with a mind of their own. One moment they might enjoy getting pets from you, but, all of the sudden, they could hold your arm and bite you. Also, they could just go the some dark corner in your home, which they probably call “alone time.”

While most of us love our cats, specifically for their quirks, one can’t avoid but feel somewhat hurt at being avoided. Well, it’s important to understand that if your cat runs away from you it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. They certainly do, and they’re well aware how much you love them. But, there are some reasons that can cause your cat to run away from you. Let’s look at them.

1. Poor Socialization

They say everything begins in our childhood and for cats that’s kittenhood. Cats go through a period of socialization and the first 9 weeks of their life are the most critical in their social development. During this period, kittens discover the world around them and develop numerous stimuli like smells, sights, sounds that if not handled correctly could lead to fear and anxiety.

What this means for you is that if your kitten or cat wasn’t properly handled by humans or had little to no contact with people then they might have developed fear around them. For example, feral cats most probably had a negative or simply no exposure to humans during that period which makes them fearful of people.

According to research, “owners of additionally socialized kittens reported significantly higher emotional support from their cats, and fewer of these cats exhibited behavior indicative of a fear of humans.”

So, when you visit your local adoption center make sure to learn a few things about your cat’s period of socialization. Your vet or animal behaviorist could also offer additional information on how to help relieve your cat’s anxiety, enhance their socialization skills, and help mend your bond so they will eventually stop running away from you.

2. The Fear Instinct

We might view cats as our pets now, but according to a study published in the research journal, Science, the process of feline domestication began up to 12,000 years ago, unlike dogs which according to new evidence evolved from wolves 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.

So, while our cats have come a long way, they still possess the instincts of their feline ancestors. As John Bradshaw, author of the book, “Cat Sense” points out, “cats evolved from a solitary animal that has never needed any sophisticated repertoire.”

While feline domestication pushed cats to develop a certain language to communicate with us, like meowing, they still in a lot of ways behave like their ancestors. Staying hidden during the daytime and hunting during nighttime is one of them.

You may ask, what does instinct have to do with your kitty running away from you? Well, you should keep in mind that while cats might be renowned hunters, they’re also prey. If you just brought your cat home, then they might see you as a threat that triggers their prey instinct. Or they might want to play a game of “catch me if you can!”

In case your kitty isn’t new, but they react to your approach by running away or walking backwards, most of the time, then perhaps the way you’ve been approaching them from the very beginning has made them feel anxious. If they feel like they’re being chased, then quite possibly they might not know what will happen once they’re caught.

3. Traumatic Past

People oftentimes associate trauma with the human experience but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Hana Surowinski, the director of an animal shelter in Kabul called Nowzad states that, “like people, animals react to trauma in many different ways,” and she also adds that, “how it presents itself in that animal is individual to them.

Stacy Lopresti-Goodman, an associate professor of psychology at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., also explains that, “given similarities in brain structures responsible for stress responses, animals exhibit symptoms which resemble those of PTSD in humans.”

If you find your kitty running away from you, and show signs of aggression or constant fear, there’s a chance that they had a traumatic past. According to research, the effect of abuse and neglect can have both short and long-term psychological and emotional effects. So, a traumatized cat can be of any age.

Some cat parents use punishment as a way to keep their cats from certain behaviors, like scratching furniture or jumping up on kitchen counters. While some might use cat-friendly solutions like using essential oils to keep them away from certain areas, others may spray them with bottles filled with water as punishment. Punishment can only lead to stress and stress leads to trauma.

Karen L. Overall, VMD, Ph.D., DACVB brings good news by letting us know that, “animals can recover from abuse, but it takes time and active intervention. Fortunately, we do not need to know the nature of the abuse to help them recover.” Be gentle with your cat and don’t force them into something they don’t feel comfortable with yet.

4. They Want Space

New and old cat owners alike should always keep in mind that each cat is different, and no personality is alike. Just like with people that can be characterized as introverts, extroverts, or both, cats are no different in this aspect.

My two cats for example are the complete opposites when it comes to socializing. One is extremely sociable and friendly with everyone, while the other one prefers his own company and occasionally my own. The way I behave towards my cats is based on their differences.

Perhaps you’re not paying enough attention to your kitty and tend to approach them at the wrong time. If they’re busy, or they are enjoying some alone time, instead of walking towards them and scaring them away, give them some space and let them come to you instead.

5. The Age Factor

As we mentioned before, kittens have a way of accepting humans into their lives and that happens during the socialization period. If you’ve recently adopted a little rascal and you notice that they keep skittering away from you then perhaps try to be patient. I’m sure the little furball will need some time to adjust to their new environment and you.

Acknowledging your kitten’s need for adjustment will help you build a trusting relationship and give them the confidence they need. If on the other hand, you notice your senior cat suddenly avoiding your approaches, then it might be the elderly factor.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, assistant professor in small animal medicine at Cornel University College of Veterinary Medicine explains that, “some cats may need more emotional support as they age and others may prefer to be left alone.” Your kitty might be too old for your energetic attention so perhaps you should try a different, more gentle approach.

6. Sensitivity To Loud Noise

Next time you approach your kitty notice your movements and the sounds you make. Cats are quite sensitive to sound and studies have shown that they can, “amplify sound waves 2 to 3 times for frequencies 2,000 and 6,000 Hz.” They also can move their ears around 180 degrees and finally, they can hear frequencies higher than humans and dogs at 64,000 Hz.

Whenever I walk up to my cats in a hurry, I notice that I tend to make a lot of noise, partly because of my shoes and partly because they’re so cute and I need to squeal at them! I promise I control myself most of the time and try to be a considering cat-mother since cats don’t like loud noises and harsh sounds.

I’m sure this kitty can agree as it’s running away for his life after hearing that sneeze!

So, when you find yourself rushing towards your kitty, try to pace yourself and observe their reaction. Make them feel that you’re safe to be around and that you’re not just a clumsy and loud lunatic.

7. Environmental Changes

It’s true that cats love their owners, and they consider their presence important for their wellbeing. A study published in the Scientific World Journal states that, “the quality and quantity of human-animal interactions experienced by cats are both relevant to their welfare outcomes in various settings.” It’s also noted that, “the social environment is of great importance to cats.”

Since our interaction with our cats is so important you might wonder, why does my cat run away from me? Perhaps you should ask, what changes caused this avoidance instead. If you brought a new cat into your home, your kitty might be feeling jealous and unable to adjust to the new reality they were forced into.

You might have people staying over or new housemates that make your kitty uncomfortable and they’re projecting this discomfort by avoiding you. You see cats are creatures of habit and any kind of change in their environment and daily routine can cause them stress.

Moving to a new home could also cause such a reaction, but it could also be something as small as the change in their feeding routine. An automatic wet food feeder can help you keep their feeding time perfectly scheduled. But whatever change it might be, help your cat adjust to the new reality. Give your kitty some extra attention so they don’t feel like you’re neglecting them.

8. A Dominant Cat

When you bring a new cat to your home it’s important to remember that they might not get along, or that it may take a lot of time. All cats react differently and it’s true that some might become bonded and others might never get along with a stranger cat.

It’s also possible that one of the cats has claimed you as part of their territory and now the other kitty can’t come near you. Cat’s can show aggression in many ways and it’s not uncommon to see one cat bullying the other. Just as a cat can claim a room, a litterbox, and a food bowl, they could possibly do the same to their owner.

Bringing two cats together can be difficult and studies show that, “when the cats are brought together, key resources such as food, litter boxes, shelter and social interaction need to be available in sufficient amounts to ensure that there is no unnecessary conflict.”

So, having enough resources placed around the house, giving them an equal amount of attention, and steadily reintroducing your kitties can help shift the dynamic and eventually establish a fair equilibrium.

9. They’re In Heat

Cats can react differently when they mature and become sexually active. Whether your kitty is allowed outside or not, they might be running away from you because they’ve sensed another cat outside and they want to find it. A cat in heat can be less friendly since their mind isn’t focused on you, but on their instinctive need to procreate.

If your male cat has been neutered, they still might show signs of a sexually aggressive feline, though it’s not too common. Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, Dipl. ACVB, states that, “the various male behaviors, including inter-male aggression and sexual aggression, may not be completely suppressed and may persist for years following castration of a super-male.”

If you find your cat running away from you and show signs of mating behavior, then a trip to your vet could help you figure out the reasons behind it. If you’ve got a cat in heat, you can find a list of low-cost spay/neuter clinics across the globe thanks to PetSmart by clicking here.

10. They Found A New Home

This might be a bigger concern to cat owners who let their cats roam freely outside of their homes. If your cat is in heat, you might start seeing less and less of them when the mating season approaches. For this reason, and to avoid the birth of stray kitties neutering/spaying our cats is important.

But if your kitty has been castrated and you still see them run away from you whenever you approach them it might be because they prefer the outside. Your kitty might be naturally less touchy-feely, so they find the outside world more appealing. It’s also possible that they’ve got a second family on the side.

Unfortunately, it can happen to cat parents that are not home most of the time and they’re too tired to spend time with their feline companions. This can happen to anyone, but it won’t change the fact that your cat is going to feel neglected. If you don’t want to be replaced by someone else, maybe you should try investing more into your cat-human relationship.

With more shared time, loads of love, and a steady, respectful approach you can build up your trust again, and next time your kitty won’t run away from you!

How Can I Train My Cat To Stop Running Away From Me?

It’s always good to remember that cats can be versatile and different in character and what works for one might not work for the other. With that being said, you can always try to set new rules, boundaries, and expand your relationship with your furry companion. It might seem like an uphill battle for some but investing in their feline hearts is always worth it!

1. Build Mutual Trust

Step number one in mending a friendship gone bad or building it from the very beginning is trust. If you’re desperately wondering, why does my cat run away from me? Then throw that desperation out of the window and instead start listening to your kitty.

Have you been forcing your cat into your hugs? Picking them up when they didn’t anticipate it? Are you observant of their physical cues when you approach them? These are all questions you should start asking yourself. Our cats might not speak our language, but their body language is something we can study and learn what they like or not.

If you’ve been approaching your kitty when they’re in the middle of eating or playing, or simply not in the mood, it’s quite natural that they’d run away. If it’s a reoccurring situation they probably have learned to avoid you precisely because of that.

Notice their ears, are they flat against their head, their eyes wide, and their tail twitching low or tucked beneath their hind legs? If that’s the case, then your kitty is either scared or they want you to stop. Disregarding what they’re asking of you means that only by avoiding you can they get what they want.

When we don’t look for their “no more” signs, or we ignore them, our feline companions will begin to associate us with a person who doesn’t listen to them. They won’t trust us, and they will avoid being approached because there’s no consent in your dynamic.

Once you understand your cat’s body language then you can change your behavior. It might take them a while to unlearn the fact that you were once a selfish clumsy human and that now you’re a trustworthy friend, but it can be done.

2. Creating A Safe Space

For a cat that had a traumatic past or they’ve felt unsafe with you because you misread their signals, trust is not the only thing that will need your attention. Emotional neglect can manifest itself in cats with loving and caring owners as well.

According to the study on The Psychological Aspects of Abuse and Neglect in Animals, “it’s a matter of unintentionally failing to meet an animal’s emotional needs, not any maliciousness or even heartlessness. Boredom, loveliness, and anxiety can exist unbeknownst to the pet owner, and what isn’t seen isn’t addressed.”

Try not to be too hard on yourself, because we’re humans and not cats, so things can easily get lost in translation. There’s a way to fixing this, by creating the right space for your kitty where they can begin to feel secure in their home and in your presence.

Invest in scratching posts, soft cat beds, interactive toys, and healthy treats to give your kitty the desired environment. If you see them running away, ensure that they won’t be cornered, but that they can find places to hide. “Simple enhancements to improve the quality of cat’s living quarters via enrichment such as hiding areas may yield many beneficial effects,” one study suggests.

And while objects, food, and other survival necessities are important, socializing is also part of a cat’s healthy lifestyle. Observe your kitty’s signals and approach when they seem relaxed. Turn yourself into a symbol of safety in your kitty’s eyes and you can only achieve this by listening to their desires and needs.

3. Build Your Cat’s Confidence

You might be the owner of a social cat that has all the confidence in the world and find out that your kitty running away from you is simply an invitation to play. But shy and easily scared cats won’t see your approach as a game.

If your kitty is not oozing confidence, because you just brought them home, then perhaps you could try and give them a little boost. Provide them with interactive toys and encourage your fluffy overlord to play with you. Having a proper area to perch can also help build confidence as cats gain a place where they can survey their domain. My go-to brand for cat trees of any size is Go Pet Club and you can see them on Amazon here.

Don’t let your kitty spend their whole day alone, instead play with them and ignite the hunter’s spirit inside them. This will bring you closer and make your kitty feel like they’re an important part of your life.

4. Positive Reinforcement And Reward

If your cat is living in a safe and trustworthy environment where they get tons of attention from you, but they still run away from you, then you can slowly train them from doing so.

Cats don’t respond well to shouting and even a cat without a traumatic past can respond to such behavior with stress-induced behaviors. So, whatever your kitty might do remember to always use positive reinforcement.

When you come up to your kitty make sure to have some treats or catnip at hand and offer them as a reward for their approach. Be always patient and wait for your kitty to come closer to you. With time you won’t need to lure them in with treats, because this process is about letting your cat know that coming close to you is a positive interaction.

Avoid looming over your kitty like some giant, but instead, come down to their level. Even when you pet them, don’t simply push your hand down like a grappling hook, but squat down and let them smell your hand, and if you see them rubbing against it, then that’s them giving you their consent to pet them.

5. Don’t Force Your Kitty

Not all cats are cuddly and while you can certainly try and warm them up to the idea of cuddles and pets, it’s also important to not force anything on them. If your kitty doesn’t like to be picked up or petted randomly then don’t do it.

If you notice that you’ve wronged your fluffy familiar an apology can be the first step to reconciliation. But apologizing with treats and toys won’t always work, so instead try to respect your cat’s wishes to be left alone whenever they want to be left alone.

Perhaps you should let your kitty come to you whenever they want to be petted or snuggle next to you. Instead of forcing them to use other means to interact with your cat through your initiative like playing with them.

Closing Thoughts

Most of our cats have their own habits and unique behaviors and it’s clear that we can’t force anything on them. I’m sure that’s not what we’d want anyway, but their independence can make us feel insecure sometimes, especially if it looks like they’re avoiding our approach.

Well, I’m sure our cats love us, even if they run away from us from time to time. The only thing we can do is to care for them, respect their boundaries, and give them the opportunity to come close to us.

So, tell us, did you ever have to ask yourself, why does my cat run away from me? Did any of our answers help you solve this riddle or do you have a different perspective on the matter?

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