Have you ever said, “you scared the pee out of me?” Whether the statement was literal or figurative, we know that humans can pee out of fear. Can you scare the pee out of your cat?
Do cats pee when scared?
If your cat pees when they are scared, you may be wondering if that’s the cause. Cats, like most animals, can pee when they are scared. The more important question is why do cats pee when they are scared?
Peeing when scared is often caused by involuntary urination. Humans, dogs, and cats will all pee when they are scared due to involuntary urination.
The fight or flight system that is activated when we are scared is the limbic system. This controls involuntary reactions. If you are scared, you may run away without even thinking about it. You may punch someone who startled you, without conscious thought. You may also find yourself frozen in place, unable to move.
The limbic system exists because it allows you, and your cat, to respond very quickly to a threat. Thinking takes time, which, in a life-threatening situation, can cost you your life. So the limbic system takes over and acts on its own.
The part of our brain that prevents us from socially unacceptable behaviors, like peeing ourselves, is the frontal lobe. This is where conscious thought takes place. In moments of intense fear, the frontal lobe isn’t in control.
It’s thought that peeing when scared has some sort of evolutionary survival advantage, although scientists haven’t figured out what it is. Peeing in moments of fear is common throughout the animal kingdom. It’s essentially a reflex that occurs when we are scared, and we can’t control it.
It’s important to never scold your cat for peeing when they are afraid, because it’s out of their control. You would never choose to pee your pants when startled. It happens without you wanting it to. It’s the same for your cat.
Submission peeing is common among cats, especially if you have more than one cat in your home. When cats fight, they can get rough. It’s possible for them to injure each other. To prevent things from going to far, sometimes one cat will pee.
This is their way of saying, “you’ve won”. We don’t have to fight. Once this happens, the cat may continue to pee submissively each time they get into a fight or conflict with another cat.
It can be difficult to distinguish between fighting and playing, but it’s easy to spot if you know what to look for. Cats that are fighting will have their ears flattened against their head. Their hair will likely be standing on end. This makes them look bigger and more intimidating.
Hissing and showing teeth are also signs your cats are fighting, or about to fight. They may also growl. Cats don’t typically make these noises when they are playing.
If you notice your cats fighting or showing aggressive or defensive postures when they pee, this is likely the cause.
You can also watch for signs of submission in your cat. They may avoid eye contact and hold their ears backwards. They will crouch and tuck their tail between their legs. They may also lie on their back, exposing their belly.
Stress marking is another potential cause. Both male and female cats will use pee as a way to mark their territory.
They have several ways of marking. They use scent glands in their feet and head. They may scratch to leave visual marks and their scent. They may also rub their head against an object to place their scent on it. Of course, they also mark their territory with pee.
All of these methods serve the same purpose. It can be their way of claiming their area. Just as a human may place a sign that says no trespassing or building a fence, a cat will urine mark to say this is my spot.
Cats who are intact will also mark as a way of advertising for a mate. It allows other cats to know that they are sexually mature and seeking a mate.
Cats don’t typically stress mark in moments of fear that pass quickly. Instead, they do it when they feel fear or stress over a period of time.
We know that smells can bring us comfort. You may have certain scents that you love because they remind you of happy times. These smells can calm you when you are anxious and make you feel uplifted.
Scent can have a similar function for cats. Their urine smells like them. Making the area they are in smell like them via urine can bring them a sense of comfort and belonging.
This usually happens when there’s a change to your cat’s living environment. If you’ve recently got a new pet or family member, your cat may mark for comfort. They will also do this if you’ve moved to a new home.
Heat isn’t a cause of your cat peeing because they are scared in itself, but it does make it more likely. Cats in heat are typically more anxious, which makes them easier to scare. They are also more likely to mark their territory to signal their sexual receptiveness.
How to get my cat to be less scared?
You don’t want your cat to be scared. Your home should be a safe haven for your cat. If your cat is experiencing fear, you’ll want to help ease their anxiety.
Signs of a Scared Cat
Urination is only one of the signs of a scared cat. They may freeze in place or crouch down when startled. Your cat may run away or hide in an attempt to get away from the source of the fear.
Physical signs yoru cat is afraid include arching their back and raising their fur. This is an attempt to look bigger, which is a defensive instinct. The pupils of their eyes may get bigger, and look like large circles. They may swish their tail or tuck it under them. They may flatten their ears against their head.
Lastly, your cat may hiss, growl, or show their teeth when scared.
Determining the Cause of Fear
If you can figure out the source of the fear, you can work to eliminate or reduce it. Cats can have fears or even phobias just like people can. If there’s no obvious cause of fear, like another cat or loud noises, you’ll need to watch your cat’s behavior.
Do they display signs of fear in a particular situation? Perhaps its a room in your home, a sound, or even a person that seems to trigger fear in your cat.
Remember, the fear may not always make sense to you. Some fears are easier for us to understand than others. Some people are scared of heights. Some are scared of snakes. Some, myself included, are scared of clowns. Clowns may seem harmless, but to me they are terrifying. I can’t explain why I’m scared of them, but it exists.
When a person, or a cat, is afraid of something that brings no apparent danger, this is considered a phobia. When watching your cat’s fear behaviors, be on the lookout for any possible triggers, not only the ones that make sense to you.
Make Them a Safe Place
One of the best ways to help your cat is to give them a safe place. If your cat tends to hide under objects, like your bed or the couch, make them a comfy den.
If your cat prefers to climb onto your dresser, or your head, when frightened, make them a special area up high. You can do this by installing a shelf or creating a bed on your dresser. The back of your couch is another option.
Wherever you choose, it’s best if it’s an area that’s quiet. They should be able to go there to be alone. Give them space when they retreat to their special area. They will come to you when they are ready.
Eliminate or Reduce the Source of Fear
If possible, eliminate or reduce the source of the fear. If it’s another pet, you may need to separate them, or give your cat a safe place that the other animal can’t access.
Some fears are impossible to eliminate, however. If your neighbor’s car scares your cat, there’s little you can do, other than give them a quiet area.
Music or TV
Some cats find music or TV helpful. It gives them something to focus on, and it can be relaxing. Cats have good hearing, so they may be stressed about noises outside. Music or TV can distract them from these noises.
Some cat owners find desensitization helpful, particularly for fears of loud noises. There are desensitization playlists available for some sounds. However, this should be done carefully. If you expose your cat to too much, you can make the fear worse.
Just like humans, sometimes cats need extra help to deal with fear or anxiety. If your cat has severe anxiety that is affecting their quality of life, you will need some help to get them through it.
Your vet can prescribe anti-anxiety medication. They may also offer tips on managing the fear. A behavioralist can also help. They will work with your cat to help them deal with their fear. Think of them as a cat therapist.
Do cats pee when stressed?
Yes, your cat can pee when stressed. Passing stress isn’t usually a problem. However, if your cat is frequently stressed over a period of time, it’s common for them to start urinating. Stress urination occurs when your cat is stressed. It’s their attempt to feel safe by marking their territory or peeing to add their scent to the area.
Do cats pee when threatened?
Yes, a cat that is threatened can pee out of fear or submission. If they experience intense fear, they can involuntarily pee just as a human can. If they encounter another cat, they may pee submissively to avoid a fight or confrontation.
Why else would my cat pee in the house?
Fear isn’t the only reason your cat may pee in the house. Let’s take a look at some other potential causes of unwanted peeing.
Lack of Routine
Cats are creatures of habit. They do best with a daily routine. This includes feeding them at the same times each day. A change in your schedule can also affect their routine. If you were working from home and suddenly return to the office, for example, this is a big change for your kitty.
Cats will often urinate in inappropriate places as a way to feel in control when their routine is upset.
Cats are picky about where they do their business. Have you ever walked into a public bathroom, I’m looking at you baseball bathrooms, and decided that there was no way you would use those facilities?
Cleanliness is a big factor for cats. The letterbox should be cleaned daily, and ideally poop should be scooped up quickly. You should do a full clean and change the litter at least weekly.
Location is another consideration. Cats prefer to do their business in a quiet area. For them, it’s a time when they are vulnerable. In the wild, a cat is at its most vulnerable while pooping and sleeping, because they are less able to run away or defend themselves. It’s no surprise that they don’t want to drop a deuce with people close by.
It should also be far away from the food and water areas. Do you want to use the bathroom in your dining room? Neither does your cat!
Lastly, they should have easy access to it at all times. If your cat can’t access the letterbox when they need to, they may just find another spot rather than wait.
Returning to the Scene of the Crime
Once a cat has pottied in an area, it smells like their potty. They may continue to use the area because the smell tells them it’s an appropriate thing to do there. Be sure to use an enzyme cleaner when dealing with any accidents, particularly on upholstery or carpet.
Illness or Age
Cats, like humans, can have a harder time controlling their bladder as they get older. This is known as age related incontinence. If you suspect age is the cause, or your cat is showing signs of illness, a trip to the vet is in order.
Arthritis can be a secondary cause. It can make it difficult for them to access the litterbox, particularly if it has tall sides. Make sure your elderly cat can easily get into and out of their box.
Urinary infections are a common medical cause of inappropriate urination. They make it hard for your cat to control their bladder. They may also experience pain when peeing, which can create a negative association with the litterbox. This can cause problems even after the infection has cleared.