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I recently (3-4 weeks ago) adopted this cat and she was incredibly scared at first. With time she warmed up to me but she is only happy if I'm sitting down or lying down. As soon as she notices I'm standing up she runs and sometimes hisses at me. Nevertheless, when I'm lying down it's like we are best friends. She even lets me rub her tummy, something that not even other cats I've owned let me do. She also approaches me to pet her when I'm lying down. What can I do so she knows that me standing is just like... Well... Me but sitting down? As I type this I'm lying down and she's lying on top of me and I need to stand up :(

Also, she is 1 year old and unspayed.

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    Does your cat have vertical space, like a cat tree or shelves, so she can be at a similar height to you when you're standing? – StephenS Oct 15 at 3:44
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    She does! This problem happens only when I am on my bed or sitting on the floor and she decides to come and play. She has a specific spot that is tall and partially covered. If she is there and in the uncovered part, she seems to dislike me petting her, so I just let her be – The Bosco Oct 15 at 17:40
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    An adopted cat has a history. She might have been traumatized earlier by a standing human. I would expect it to go away over time. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Oct 16 at 8:27
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    Do you talk to your cat a lot - frequently enough that she recognizes your voice? – Zibbobz Oct 16 at 13:56
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    Side note, you should definitely be getting your lovely cat spayed. It's the responsible thing to do. There's already more kittens than we can handle. – corsiKa Oct 17 at 21:44
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Your cat may be interpreting your standing up as an aggressive posture, as cats will arch themselves up to make themselves as tall as possible when they're being scared or aggressive. Or, it may be that your cat is very jumpy, and dislikes the sudden movement, whereas if you're sitting or lying down you're bound to be pretty still.

Perhaps it might help if you try to give it positive reinforcement while you are standing, so it starts to associate your standing up with good things. For instance, toss the cat treats while you are standing, or try to play using a feather wand while you are standing. It's important to also try to get the cat to come to you, rather than trying to approach it, so it feels in charge of the situation and not cornered.

  • I have been waiting for her to approach me while I am seated (or, eventually, standing) and, if I can, I pet her. When she feels comfortable I also pick her up a bit just so she knows I am gentle with her. It is kind of complicated to avoid cornering her due to the way the room is, but I made some hiding spots for her. – The Bosco Oct 25 at 20:56
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Do your cat a favor and get her spayed. It will definitely help stop her from feeling so nervous and jumpy. Was she feral? That could contribute to the fear, as would abandonment. If a human abused her or hit her, or even accidentally hurt her when in a standing position this could cause her reaction as well. There's even reports that show that if a cat saw a human abusing another animal, that they would react in fear to anyone who looked like the human abuser - even if they were not the same person.

Puffing out their fur and arching their backs is what cats do when they are being confronted - they want to make themselves seem bigger towards a potential foe. This is a fear based reaction but it's also a dominance reaction. If it were totally fear the cat would run away.

Your standing may make her think that you are confronting her and being dominant. She runs away, and hisses sometimes, letting you know her displeasure with the fact that you are suddenly posturing yourself in a position of dominance.

I would suggest that you start working with your cat to get her used to you in a standing position.

The following series of steps should be done painstakingly slowly and with great patience. You must be consistent and you should do this daily. Start at five minutes and expand as you go along. Daily time with your cat is time well spent. Having a vertical perch, with different levels for her to sit on, may be helpful during the entire process, with that goal that eventually she would climb it and be beside you when you stand.

Step One: Start by lying on the floor with her. Slowly get to a sitting position on the floor. The goal is to get her to the point where she sits on your lap. Your movements should be slow and gentle, and if at first she runs away, speak to her with a calm voice while you sit. Don't force her to come to you. Use treats to get her to come near to you.

Use toys as well, a paper bag, or play the "underneath" game. If that's too much and she's too timid for that, just consistently sit on the floor until she gets to the point of being able to approach you and get into your lap and/or rub all over you. If you have a multi-tiered perch, getting her to be on the same level as you are would be helpful. This might take a few weeks, but it could be quicker - but do this daily until she's accustomed to you sitting on the floor.

Step Two would be to go from lying to sitting to kneeling. This might be killer on the knees but see if you can use a pillow. It would be the same thing - patiently get her to the point of being with you. Use a calm voice, treats, play - whatever you can to get her to the point where she doesn't run away - but plays with you.

Step Three would be sitting - not in a chair - but on a footrest or something like it - again, getting your cat to slowly get used to you in this position.

As you can see, each step slowly makes you taller and bigger but non-threatening.

Step Four is the last step, and this would be standing. You can absolutely play with her while standing with the right toys, and with a multilevel perch you could encourage her to be with you at every level.

Keep in mind that patience, taking as long a time as she needs, a calming voice and not rushing or forcing her will be the key to getting her to learn that you are not a threat. Otherwise she may always live in fear.

Also, making the time to be with your cat will give you the chance of creating a great relationship between the two of you, which, in my opinion, is priceless.

  • I will get her spayed, I just wanted to wait until she was more familiar with me so I could take her to the vet without having to capture her. She was not a feral. I have been doing something similar to what you said and it has been working very well! Since she is not spayed yet, she went in heat for a bit and was more "communicative". She also was way more attached to me which is expected. This seemed to have helped her to get used to me now that she is not in heat anymore. I think I am at the point where I can take her to the vet comfortably. – The Bosco Oct 25 at 20:58
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We had a cat when I was younger that my dad accidentally stepped on when she was a kitten and resulted in some trauma. She fully recovered and became a total sweetheart, and actually lived to be quite old. If you were sitting down she'd hop up on the couch and curl in your lap like a normal cat.

However, if you stood up or were walking around the house she would panic and run for safety. Even having the cat's full trust she still couldn't quite shake the fear she had of people's feet.

What's the point? If she's adopted you may not know all of the cat's history and something like this could have happened. I've known several adopted cats and it's pretty common for them to be skittish initially, but if you are consistently kind to them and avoid threatening behavior, they usually will come around. But sometimes they still might have some residual fear of some kind that sticks around. If the cat is otherwise friendly to you, Don't worry about it too much, and just try avoid "startling" it with whatever behavior they don't like.

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Fear from a standing human hints for the behavior being conditioned by eg. previously being kicked. It's the very same trigger situation, as traumatized humans with anxiety disorder might display. Try to avoid this trigger situation as much as possible - this can only be deconditioned by establishing trust (as @ahavoc already described it). Once had a hunting dog which reacted similar whenever she saw green military cloth (similar to a hunter's outfit). When the pupils turn large and the eyes are fixating you, when hissing, this means fear... if not, then it might have another cause. Providing her with some kind of cave (with a roof), where she can hide, might also curb the defensive reaction.

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She's probably just nervous. Alert the cat that you're about to stand up. Pet her or make a sound so she knows you're aware that she's there and not about to step on or attack her.

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Get up slower!

If you have a sudden idea pop in your head and you decide to get up instantly with no warning, it may catch your cat off guard and scare them. Try first by making a noise or creating movement, like a wiggle in your seat. This might wake them up a bit so they're more tuned in to reality. After that slowly lean forward as if you are getting, then get up. In the wild, when big cats are all sat down, its because they're relaxing. If one big cat suddenly jumps up, it's because there is danger nearby and everybody must be ready.

I think your cat is responding to its natural instinct, so you could be scaring him thinking there is danger nearby. Get up slowly, assuring him there is nothing alerting nearby.

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She likely has some bad history with standing humans (being chased, kicked, stepped on, etc.) and thus is nervous about humans standing up. I adopted two cats myself about a year and a half ago, and one of them has a rather nervous disposition. Most of the time he hides behind the sofa, and whenever I come walking he runs away (though after a year or so he simply cowers and keeps a careful eye on me as I walk past), but as soon as I go to bed he comes and wants to cuddle, often ending up spending the night sleeping on the pillow next to my head.

  • This and another answer is exactly what I was going to say! We adopted a small dog that was in a puppy mill, and immediately exhibited great fear towards me. That was especially so when I stood up or moved my leg towards her the slightest bit. It has now been 20 months, yet to this day it is obvious that a little of her PTSD is still in her. We are convinced that a man in the puppy mill kicked her. – Mike Waters Oct 17 at 23:56
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Get the cat familiar with your walking behaviour. Stand up facing sideways and ignore the cat. Don't look at the cat while you stand up, ignore him and pretend he doesn't exist, especially if he feels threatened. Play with him with a thingy on a string while standing, or food on a string, and whatever gets him used to you standing. Cats understand calm eye movements, so If you look at him and away, like you just stepped out of a bored movie when he is anxious, it will chill him out a bit. Eye contact is sure to aggravate an annoyed cat. Casual movements and actions like manicuring your hand and lookin at something like a curtain and messing with it, will calm the cat.

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