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Say a cat was freaked out by something. It could be a dream, a scary window critter, an unpleasant sound, or something unknown.

Given that the cat is now freaked out but the cause itself is gone or negligible, is there any way to let the cat know it need not be afraid anymore?

This is just speculation but might it be possible through behavior, sounds, or actions to facilitate a quicker recovery?

I have one cat who, when freaked out by who knows what, will come to whatever room I'm in, sit up in a compact manner (tail wrapped, legs close) and watch the door. My initial reaction would be to pet him but I feel that isn't actually going to help since he desires the high alert state for the time being (affection doesn't make you safer). What I then usually do is simply walk out of the room with him in tow trying to locate the source of the freakout. Often I am led from the rear to wherever he initially came from and I sort of just touch things and look around while talking to him quietly. After that he usually starts to poke around himself and moves on.

This got me thinking about other ways that this could be done or other things I could do. I think I'm doing a pretty good job with the above approach but any other information would be great.

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Keep in mind that cats normally have sharper senses than humans. Your cat could be hearing something outside, like a dog barking or a car going by, and be upset by it. Then he might watch the door, making sure it's not coming for him or for you.

By the cat coming up to you and looking at the door, he's either looking to you for safety, or attempting to ensure that you're safe. This is a natural thing for a cat to do, and it makes it so that if something does happen that could be dangerous, it's doing the right thing.

There's a few things that you can do.

Firstly, make sure you don't make the cat more panicked. If you start making loud noises and getting anxious as well, he will just feel the need to keep watch more. This includes initiating playing with it in a way that gets him riled up.

Secondly, by giving him treats and pets, you're telling him that he's doing a good job by keeping watch. I would probably talk to him in a calm way, but not move. Your calmness will calm him down more. By going to the source, the cat is making you figure out what it was upset about, and now knows that when he's scared, you will fix it. Always. I would only check on the noise if I felt there was a need to worry, like you heard a door close or a glass shatter unexpectedly (and check only if you know you're going to be safe). If you know it's just the house settling or a normal noise, you have no need to worry and figure out what the noise was, so you shouldn't investigate.

Finally, and this sounds funny, but consider just ignoring him when he does it. If he's upset and you aren't, he'll think that you're probably right. After all, if the larger animal of the pack isn't worried about something, then he shouldn't be either. It might take him a while to calm down, but that's okay.

Remember that nothing is going to happen overnight, so make sure you're consistent and loving and eventually he should calm down.

You've done nothing wrong so far! These are just a few suggestions on what I've done with my cat.

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  • I'm not sure how relevant the references to the "pack" are; cats aren't pack animals like dogs. – starsplusplus Dec 30 '14 at 16:31
  • @starsplusplus In the wild this is true, however when you bring a cat in the home, you are bringing him into your own "pack". If this weren't true, you'd bring him in your home and he'd avoid you like the plague, attempting to escape captivity at all costs. You feed him, and if you let him go outside, he can bring home prey in an attempt to feed you. Yes, a domestic cat is in it's owner's pack, just like a dog is. – littlekellilee Mar 30 '15 at 17:24
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My siamese cat would have episodes of running amok through the hallway and jump on the couch. I gave her a tennis ball to play with and that calmed her down..

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