“Oh boy, no!” you throw a glance at the thing of fluff sleeping on your porch as the rubbery airbag approaches her at the speed of… definitely not light. And, you’re anticipating what might happen when it touches her fluff, even though you already know. “Argh, why are cats scared of balloons!?”
You’re having a hard time accepting the fact that your beautiful beast’s afraid of anything! Come on, she’s descended from wild cats, lions, and tigers that are known for ruling the wilderness with their power and prowess. She might have been domesticated, but she shouldn’t have lost that je ne sais quoi!
And, how can you deal with the humor behind the fact that she’s the one responsible for catching the spiders, cockroaches, and other crawling creatures while you’re hiding in the corner of the room waiting for her to do her thing? “Oh, you can deal with eight hairy legs, but you can’t deal with a balloon!?”
On the other hand, there must be a reason we label humans who are scared of everything as “fraidy-cats” and “scaredy-cats.” What else should we call them when we witness our fluffy friends shudder the moment that we turn the vacuum on? Or scatter the moment that we run ourselves a bath?
And, those are only your furry friend’s household fears! Don’t even get me started on their fear of too much attention and not enough attention, or tummy rubs and not enough tummy rubs! We have to face the fact that they’re weird and there’s not much we can do about it.
But why are cats scared of balloons? Well, because they’re cats and they can do whatever they want! We’re kidding, here’s everything you need to know about things that make cats go “Aaaaargh!”
The fearful feline: Why are cats scared of so many things?
“Why are cats scared of so many things? Aren’t they predators? Shouldn’t they be the ones making others scared of them, and not the other way around?” you ponder while learning about the ins and outs of cat care. “Why does she have to be scared of everything?”
But, there’s more to this whole cats-are-scared-of-things scenario than meets the eye. Believe it or not, there’s something known as a “healthy level of fear” among the animals that are considered predators. More times than not, fear is the one thing that saves their lives when faced with danger.
And, let’s not forget that domesticated cats aren’t simply predators. They’re mesopredators, which means there are other animals above them on the food chain. Since they aren’t on the top, why do we expect them to be fearless?
Anyway, a healthy level of fear shouldn’t concern you. Cats are scared of everything unfamiliar to them – everything that gives them the heebie-jeebies, and that they recognize as potentially harmful.
And that’s not to say they aren’t capable of taking care of themselves! Quite on the contrary. A healthy level of fear is what keeps them on their toes.
There’s something soothing about putting your walls down and completely surrendering yourself to that feeling of relaxation. But most cats can’t afford to keep their guard down.
And, as a pet parent, you’re responsible for keeping track of what your fluffball is scared of. For you, her fear of balloons might seem odd and unprovoked. But for her, that feeling of utter helplessness is entirely realistic. Aggression and other behavior problems stem from fear, so… Go figure!
Why are cats scared of balloons?
Why wouldn’t they be? When you think about this, balloons are big, brightly colored bags that could explode at any moment and startle your feline friend to death. And, when you think about other things she’s terrified of, balloons start looking like the least of your concerns.
And, we’re not even talking about your cat’s interpretation of vacuums being from hell and needing to be wiped off the face of the earth! We’re talking about people they don’t know, family members they haven’t met, your neighbor’s sweet niece, places they haven’t visited before, kitchen appliances, cucumbers…
That list could easily be endless! We wouldn’t even bat an eye because cats are that careful with what and who they hang out with. And, as we mentioned before, that little trick’s been keeping them safe for decades, so we won’t hold that against them.
But, that’s not to say that we won’t bring you a couple of reasons your cat might tremble at the sight of a balloon. Let’s get into it, what don’t we?
1. Because they fear the unknown
Why would cats be scared of harmless balloons? Well, you would be scared of it on the off chance you had no clue what a balloon was, right? Think about that for a moment. You wouldn’t feel comfortable catching a glimpse of an odd-looking, spherical object flying over your head, would you?
You’d think you were being abducted by aliens or were seeing things that weren’t even there! Put yourself in your cat’s shoes (we know cats don’t wear shoes, you don’t have to come for our necks). The moment you do that, you won’t have trouble understanding why she’s scared of things.
The human world sees balloons as fun, entertaining toys everyone loves playing with. But the feline world doesn’t seem to be as forgiving. And there’s nothing wrong with that – trust me, you don’t need to force your cat to like balloons.
2. Because balloons look like predators, kind of
“You’re telling me cats are scared of balloons because they think balloons are predators? You expect me to believe that my precious purrincess thinks a balloon’s going to attack her!?” We know that seems like a stretch. But, you need to climb back into feline mindset.
When your four-legged friend catches a glimpse of a brightly colored balloon, she doesn’t stop to observe and analyze what’s going on. She puts her fight-or-flight response to work, takes notes of the fact that something unknown is moving over her head, and resorts to running as fast as she can.
And sure, we know that a balloon can’t harm her (for the most part). But, her predatory instincts are alarming her that she needs to sit this one out. She doesn’t know what balloons are, and she isn’t going to wait around and risk getting attacked because of her curiosity.
Talk about dodging the whole “curiosity killed the cat” thing!
3. Because balloons make odd sounds
Been there, done that, right? You know that feeling you get when you’re watching a movie (alone!) and munching on your butter popcorn, minding your own business when you hear a strange sound? You start hyperventilating – you’ve seen enough horror movies to know what happens next.
Now, you’re a grown person who shouldn’t be scared of a simple sound, yet there you are in full-scale paranoia mode. Similarly, your fluffy friend might be scared of balloons because of the odd sounds they make when they brush against something.
She might get startled because she’s never heard such sounds before and she’s not sure what to expect from it.
And, that’s not even the best part. Remember, your furry friend can hear better than you! Humans can hear frequencies of up to 20,000 Hz. Cats can hear frequencies up to 64,000 Hz – about three times higher than humans. Now, imagine what those screeching balloon noises sound like to your cat!?
4. Because balloons pop when they claw at them
“Why are cats scared of balloons? As long as they don’t pop them, balloons are completely safe for them!”
We hear you and we understand your frustration, but… There’s always a but when we’re talking about your cat’s odd decisions that get her in (and out of) trouble.
Sure, the pandemonium that the balloon creates while it’s flying around the apartment and brushing its rubber against different surfaces sounds pretty annoying. But, the “POP!” sound makes every piece of fluff on your cat’s body puff up, glues her whiskers down, and crouches her posture as she gets ready to storm off.
And, if by any chance she wasn’t scared of balloons before, she’s about to be scared of them for the rest of her life! Especially when she’s the one that mustered up the courage to approach one and popped the sucker with her sharp claws! Who wouldn’t freak out over that!?
5. Because of the static electricity
This one’s reaching a little bit! We can’t say there aren’t any cats that are scared of balloons because of the static electricity. Or at least, we can’t say there aren’t any cats that weren’t already a little freaked out by balloons but started hating them only after experiencing that slight static shock.
We’ve already explored the fact that cats consider balloons a foreign, odd item. Balloons certainly aren’t something cats could get accustomed to while in the wild. And they certainly don’t naturally occur in a cat’s life. Or, at least not until she’s adopted by someone with a child (or a balloon obsession).
We’re not surprised that the little static shock you feel when you touch a balloon after rubbing one on your hair would scare your furry friend away. But we’re looking at things from a bright perspective. Your cat’s fight-or-flight response won’t have to do much work because she won’t go near a balloon again.
6. Because of the scent
“What scent? You’re referring to the rubber fragrance you smell when you’re playing with a balloon? How’s that a bad thing?”
We’re not saying it’s a bad thing, we’re saying your feline friend might be put off by the scent. Now, your question was “Why are cats scared of balloons?” Well, let’s pop that bubble – they’re not scared of them due to the scent.
But that’s not to say that they aren’t reluctant to play with a balloon because of the strong odor. Cats have sensitive snouts with 200 million odor sensors (humans only have 5 million). That means that their sense of smell is 14 times better than ours. Imagine that rubber invading their little nostrils!
On the other hand, rumors are circling that cats actually find that rubber scent pleasing. As a matter of fact, it seems to mimic the scent of pheromones, which would explain why cats might find rubbery things appealing. But, this theory hasn’t been confirmed nor denied.
7. Because balloons give them that “gut feeling”
Some humans believe that a cat’s instincts warn them when there’s danger coming their way. Whether you believe that or not, you have to admit that your fluffy friend does have some sort of a system that helps her navigate dangerous situations.
So, we might be able to say that cats are scared of balloons because of that “gut feeling.” Maybe they sense that the balloon might pop and startle them. Maybe they sense that they might choke on the rubber given that they try to munch on the balloon. Or, maybe they simply sense the awkwardness – why and how would they play with a balloon anyhow!?
Whatever the case might be, you have to admit that cats do assess danger more quickly and efficiently than humans. And cats are better at reacting accordingly than humans. They know better than to stay and fight!
8. Because of the unpredictable movements
TikTok’s beaming with videos of cats frightened of pretty much everything! And, what’s one thing that keeps coming up whenever you watch one of these videos? The unpredictable movements! And that’s exactly what makes cats so scared of balloons.
More times than not, your furry friend isn’t scared of the balloon itself, but more the erratic movements that it makes. Not only does she not really understand the novelty, but she doesn’t trust the constant levitating, bouncing off of things, and rubbing against things.
She focuses on the balloon because she’s trying to figure out whether she should be scared or not, and “BAM!” She gets frightened because the balloon moves and chases her away.
How to stop cats from being scared of balloons
On to the last plausible reason cats may be scared of balloons. Now we should tackle how you can help your cat get rid of the phobia. And here’s the thing. There’s an array of actions you can take, people you could talk to, and tools you could buy. But, there’s only one thing that you shouldn’t do!
You shouldn’t try to show your cat that the “scary thing” isn’t scary! That might sound like a great idea (“Am I not supposed to show her that she has nothing to be afraid of!?”) until you realize you’re not an animal behaviorist and you don’t really know what you’re doing.
So, now we know that you shouldn’t force your fluffy friend to play with a balloon just to show her that the balloon isn’t scary. But, what should you do to help her deal with her fears?
Repeat after me: “Management and desensitization!” Manage your cat by keeping her “safe” every time someone’s playing with a balloon next to her. Hold her, snuggle her, and don’t force her to come out from her hiding spot unless she’s ready.
Desensitize her by changing her negative response into a positive one. Expose her to balloons (under her conditions), let her explore them with her paws, and let her get used to them to the point where they’re no longer “the scary thing in the sky.” And voilà, you have yourself a fearless feline!