As well as being renowned predators, cats are also a prey species. So it’s hardly surprising that many cats will run away from strangers, especially outside, since they feel threatened. Imagine how large and daunting we must look towering above a kitty. However, owners are often left baffled if their own cat, their feline friend, runs away from them. So, let’s explore – why do cats run away from their owners?
Table of contents
Why is my cat running and hiding from me?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that each cat’s personality is unique. Some cats are naturally more shy than others. Other cats may have been poorly treated in the past, or experienced something which made them fearful. Some cats will have been poorly socialised with humans in the ‘formative’ early weeks of life.
Everyone knows cats tend to be independent creatures and even the most affectionate of cats enjoy their independence at times. You should never try to force your cat to be petted or picked up, nor punish them for running away from you. These are guaranteed to only make the situation worse.
So, back to the question, why does my cat run away from me? Let’s look at some possibilities:
Illness or injury
If your cat suddenly starts running away from you and it’s out of character, this could indicate that something is wrong. Being a prey species, their instinct is to protect themselves when they are injured or unwell. They will seek somewhere safe to hide, away from predators. If your cat is suddenly running away from you, hiding more than usual, behaving out of character, or is showing any signs of being unwell, then you should book an appointment with a vet as soon as possible.
Stress or fear
It may come as a surprise to you that cats are easily stressed. They often hide it well, unless you know what you are watching for. If your cat is feeling stressed, they may suddenly start to run away from you when you approach. Cats can be stressed by a great number of things, such as changes in the household, new or moved furniture or a new cat in the neighbourhood. Similarly, a traumatic event may have caused your cat to be more fearful than usual, such as a nasty fight with another cat.
Just like people, each cat’s personality is different. Some cats just don’t like being picked up or stroked too often. Some cats are very noise sensitive too, so they may run away if you have particularly noisy shoes on, for example.
Remember, a cat’s mood will vary just as our mood does! Sometimes your cat may just need some alone time. If they associate you approaching with being picked up or stroked and they don’t fancy it, they may well run away. Next time they may be in the mood for some affection and so head towards you.
Your cat may run away from you if they want to play! You’ll soon know this is the case, as they will most likely hide to pounce on you as you walk past, or run away and then run back to you repeatedly. Time to get some toys out!
How do I make my cat trust me?
If you’ve ruled out a medical reason, you may wish to try to encourage your feline friend not to run away from you. This can’t be forced and will take time. The key elements are building trust, creating safe spaces and lots of positive reinforcement!
Never force your cat to be stroked or picked up. Instead, let them come to you to initiate these interactions. Pay attention to their body language and keep the interactions short to begin with. Initially, try to avoid approaching your cat when they are eating, sleeping or using their litter tray. This may give them a fright and worsen the situation.
Create ‘safe spaces’
Your cat should have access to several hiding places, such as enclosed cat beds or cardboard boxes with a hole cut out. Most cats also benefit from safe spaces high up, where you aren’t towering over them. You should never try to force your cat out of these ‘safe spaces’, nor approach them when they are inside. Knowing they have somewhere safe, where they won’t be disturbed, will help to build your cat’s confidence in the home.
Remember, you should never punish your cat for running away from you. Raising your voice or gesticulating will only make your cat fearful of you. On the flip side, positive reinforcement works! Try offering your cat their favourite treat when they allow you to approach, when you pick them up or during petting sessions. This reinforces the idea that interacting with you is in-fact a positive experience.
If your cat suddenly starts running away from you, or is behaving out of character, then your first step should always be a check-up with your vet. They will be able to rule out any illness or injury. Following this, if our suggestions here aren’t enough, then your vet will be able to recommend a qualified behaviourist, who will be able to help you get to the bottom of why your cat is running away from you.