Has your cat been a little on edge recently? One minute she’d be calmly grooming herself, the next, she’d suddenly bristle up. You’re left asking yourself, “Why is my cat so jumpy all of a sudden?”
Cats are famous for displaying a wide variety of strange behavior. Most of the time, they are so unpredictable and hard to understand, doing things that are beyond our comprehension.
Like, for instance, being scared by many things and for no apparent reason whatsoever. At least, that’s how we tend to see it.
Most (if not all) owners make the mistake of believing that they and their fluffball have similar ways of perceiving the world around them. I know I do. And it is wrong on so many levels.
First of all, cats are able to hear better than us. Therefore, it’s easier for them to be scared by some sounds we probably don’t even hear. And secondly, even if we do hear the same sounds (which are significantly louder for them), they don’t perceive them as we do.
On New Year’s Eve, we could be hearing and seeing fireworks and be like, “Wow! What a beautiful fireworks display!” But our cats might think it’s the apocalypse and the end of their little furry life.
There are so many more reasons cats are so easily scared. So, if you’re trying to figure out why your cat is so jumpy all of a sudden, keep on reading.
How can you tell your cat is scared?
With people, there is plenty of physical evidence to indicate that they are scared. A person would usually start to breathe faster and/or take shorter breaths. He’d start sweating excessively, his heart rate would increase, and he’d also be trembling.
Similarly, cats also show signs of being scared. Even if you haven’t been paying close attention to your cat, you can still, most of the time, tell why is she jumpy all of a sudden.
Here are some things your cat might do when afraid:
- hide behind or under something
- freeze in one spot and have dilated pupils
- bristle up
- do an “oopsie” outside the litter box
- pace around and be very agitated
- lose her appetite or start overeating
Other weird behaviors could include excessive grooming, vomiting, and being either overly attached to you or aggressive towards you.
It’s important to observe our cats and try to understand their feelings. By detecting an uncommon behavior, we can connect it to the potential state she is in.
Like in this case, for example. You notice your cat is staying frozen in one spot with her pupils dilated, you can automatically recognize it as a sign of her being scared.
The next thing for you to do would be to determine what it is that scared her. And finally, how can you help her?
Let’s get into the reasons behind your cat’s sudden jumpiness and what you can you do to calm her down.
Why is my cat so jumpy all of a sudden? 7 possible reasons
As mentioned in the introduction, cats are weird little creatures who display strange behaviors on a daily basis. And sometimes, it’s hard for us as cat parents to recognize those behaviors as signs that something is wrong.
When your cat starts acting strange, like being suddenly jumpy or skittish, it’s not just her problem but yours as well. Your lives are inevitably bound together. Everything you do affects her and her life, and vice versa.
So, it’s no wonder you end up confused when your cat is lying calmly next to you and then, out of the blue, bolts into action.
To find the answer to your question, “Why is my cat so jumpy all of a sudden?” check out these 6 most common reasons.
1. There has been a sudden change in the environment
Cats are slaves to routine and habit. They do not like for things to be changed often as they can be highly sensitive to it. Some cats might get over it and adapt fairly quickly, while others might take more time to accept the change and move on.
My kitty is just like the latter. Our first Christmas was a total nightmare. It was my first year of living alone and I was so excited to decorate my apartment exactly how I wanted.
At that point, my kitty and I had been living in that apartment for about 7 months and it was decorated pretty simply. Some might say in a minimalist fashion, but a minimum of furniture was actually all that I could afford at the time.
But for Christmas, I’ve decided to splurge! I got the biggest tree you could imagine, countless decorations, Christmas lights, and paper snowflakes. I even got a big plastic snowman. And most of the things I placed in the living room.
My cat spent the first several days mostly in the bathtub. I had to relocate her food bowl closer to the bathroom since she could not stay for too long in our living room without being scared by something.
And when she finally did decide to join me on the couch for my traditional Harry Potter marathon, she was extremely sensitive and scared, and oh-so jumpy whenever the lights would start to blink.
Let’s just say, all I wanted for that Christmas was for my kitty to feel calm.
I’ve learned the hard way how bad of an idea is to surprise your cat with sudden big changes. So make sure to learn from my mistakes and try to slowly introduce your kitty to everything new you wish to do around the house.
2. Your cat doesn’t like the new arrival
Whether it be a new pet or a new person, cats usually don’t take well to unexpected guests. Especially if the guest decides to stay forever.
If someone has recently moved in with you or just started visiting you every day, your cat will probably have a hard time adjusting to it. Especially if that new person is trying to force a connection with your cat and begins bothering her whenever she’s in her own little safe zone.
The same thing happens if you decide to adopt a new pet. We all know cats are very territorial, and if a new cat (or God forbid dog) shows up, your cat could feel threatened and scared, resulting in her being jumpy and jittery.
Socializing for cats is a very complex process. Nevertheless, it’s something they have to go through.
If your cat, as a kitten, wasn’t exposed to many human or pet interactions, it can result in her becoming a loner, which is a very hard state to break out of.
So if that’s the case, try to slowly introduce your cat to anybody new. It’s important for your cat to do things at her own pace. Forcing her into doing something, especially when that something involves other people or pets, can only have a bad outcome.
3. She had some traumatic experience that made her jumpy
If your fluffball was once a shelter cat, then you might find her jumpy because she’s been through some trauma.
Traumatic experiences can come in many forms. Your kitty’s previous owners might have treated her badly. Or she had a bad experience with another cat or a different animal. Maybe there was even a time when your cat was starving, cold, or living in a dangerous environment.
Because of the trauma your cat went through, she could be having flashbacks or bad memories, causing her to tremble and be jumpy all of a sudden.
4. Your cat is in Spain (with a silent S)
Cats who are in pain, either due to physical injury or some internal medical issues, might be jumpy all of a sudden in order to get your attention.
If your cat is hurting in some way, she is unable to understand that hiding or refusing to eat is not a solution. It’s your job to observe her atypical behaviors and make sure you determine what’s wrong with her.
At first, you might be unsure whether or not something is wrong with her, but her unusual behavior should be your first sign that something is not right. Take her to the vet who will know for certain what your cat is suffering from (if anything).
5. She heard something you didn’t
Did you know that cats have exceptionally sensitive hearing and are able to hear way better than humans? We can hear up to a range of 20,000 Hz, while cats can hear up to 64,000 Hz. No wonder sounds easily scare them!
There are so many sounds cats despise that we might not even be aware of.
So, your cat bolts after you unbox a package and take out the bubble wrap, or she runs under the table when you turn on the dishwasher, it’s because she dislikes those sounds as they scare her.
6. She’s an anxious kitty
If your cat usually struggles with anxiety, that might be why she’s so jumpy all of a sudden.
Anxiety in cats is very common and usually a standard trigger for many behavioral and medical problems. An anxious cat typically shows signs such as destructive or aggressive behavior, diarrhea or constipation, or an increased heart rate. She can tremble or hide from her owner, or do her business outside the litter box.
Feline anxiety can appear because of many reasons, such as near contact with a toxic substance or some infectious disease that affected the nervous system. It could also be because of a lack of socialization or previous traumatic experience.
Some cats may also develop separation anxiety and have trouble being away from their owner.
7. Something scared your cat
This is a simple one, and pretty self-explanatory. You might even think it’s weird I’m even mentioning it, but here it is anyway.
Something might have scared your kitty and you didn’t see what it was. Or you did, but you didn’t find it frightening.
Your kitty might be peacefully sitting by the window and melancholically looking at nature outside, and all of a sudden, a leaf will fall, or a squirrel will run by, and your kitty would feel traumatized.
Okay, maybe not really traumatized, but it scared her whisker-less.
This one is not that serious, but it might be the most common one. Our cats have super sensitive senses and the environment they’re in can sometimes be hard to navigate peacefully.
What can you do to calm down a jumpy cat?
As a good cat parent, you probably want to make sure your kitty has the best time of her life with you. That means you would do anything to calm her down in her moments of sudden jumpiness.
The first thing you can do is to provide a stress-free atmosphere for her. Eliminate everything from her surroundings that would cause her to be anxious and that you know she doesn’t enjoy.
If you know you’re going to make some changes to your home, make sure your cat is a part of that process. Let her sniff everything, piece by piece, so she can get familiar with the new items you’re bringing into your home.
Also, provide a hiding place for your cat, somewhere close enough for her to observe everything from a safe distance.
If you’re about to adopt a new cat, keep in mind they will both need time to adjust. Try separating them into different rooms at first and slowly but surely bring them closer together.
And, if you’re about to bring a new person to your home, give your kitty something she can smell in advance so she could at least be familiar with the smell of the new person.
If that new person is a baby, your cat might be sensitive to the sound of her crying. In that case, try to desensitize your cat as much as possible. For example, introduce your cat to baby sounds before the baby arrives. That way, it won’t be that big of a shock to her later.
I think we can all agree on how challenging it can be to live with a cat. They are unpredictable, sometimes even self-centered, and overall very strange little creatures.
Their weird behavior sometimes leaves us confused and makes us ask ourselves many questions, like, “Why is my cat so jumpy all of a sudden?” and many more.
But we love them and don’t mind taking care of them. Especially in those times when they’re feeling sad or distressed.
If your cat is jittery, it’s important for you to be there for her. As I mentioned before, you and your cat share the space you’re in and your lives are endlessly intertwined. You are obliged to provide a safe space for her where she’s able to feel comfortable.
When you think about it, cats are like roommates that don’t pay the bills but add to our expenses. Good thing cats pay in other currencies that we, as cat parents, might not even be worthy of!