7 Common Things That Actually Scare Your Pets, According to Veterinarians

Your furry friend is likely fearful about more than just fireworks and thunderstorms.

border collie lying on couch under plaid indoors

From treats and daily walks to belly rubs and playtime, many pet owners go out of their way to ensure their four-legged friends are living their very best lives. Since you want your pet to be happy, it can be disheartening when they feel scared or appear anxious—but knowing the warning signs, which indicate that your companion has been triggered by something, is half the battle. "Pets show fear in a variety of ways," says Dr. Carly Fox, a senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center. "The most common signs include a crouched posture, trembling, an arched back, and pinned back ears."

While there are some obvious anxiety inducers for pets, like thunderstorms and fireworks, other triggers can be less apparent. In fact, some things that may scare your furry friend are objects they encounter in their everyday lives—or even behaviors that you and your loved ones do without noticing they cause your pet stress.

A plastic suitcase standing on a floor in a room

Changes in Routine

Although they may seem well established in your home, pets are still sensitive to changes in the household—even minor ones. "Throwing a get-together, having a house guest, going on vacation, or any change in routine can cause our pets stress, which can lead to negative behavioral changes," says Dr. Fox. To minimize this, she recommends making sure your furry companion has a place to retreat to or a room they feel comfortable in to put them at ease. "Changes in routine should be gradual if possible," she says.

Couple carrying armchair while standing at new house

Moving Furniture

It happens all the time: You get tired of the way your living room or bedroom is arranged, so you move a couch here or a desk there. While it may not seem disruptive to you, it may be fearsome for your pet. "Any time furniture and décor are moved, it can be stressful for pets, so this should be done over time if possible, to allow your pet time to adjust," says Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM, the chief veterinarian at Petco. She adds that moving objects or introducing things that make noise, such as fans or connected home devices, should be done gradually.

woman vacuuming dust and fur on sofa from little cat

Noisy Appliances

Even human ears don't like the sound of a blender whirring or a vacuum running, so it makes sense that these loud noises can also bother animals. "The household can be full of seemingly benign everyday objects that can cause fear in our pets," says Dr. Fox. She says that loud appliances make distressing sounds that can put pets on high alert. Additionally, Dr. Miller says that appliances like vacuums may also smell strange to pets, which contributes to their feelings of fear.

Beautiful honeybee close-up when pollinating the sunlit ox-eye daisy


Like humans, pets can experience insect phobias. "The buzzing sound flies and bees make can scare our pets, making them jump or bite in the air or at their bodies," says Dr. Fox. According to Dr. Miller, if your furry companion has a past trauma with an insect, such as being bitten by a fly or stung by a bee or wasp, they may feel especially scared when confronted with bugs. "There are several pet-safe insect repellents that can help deter pests from our pets who spend time outdoors," says Dr. Fox.

Couple carrying armchair while standing at new house
Luis Alvarez / GETTY IMAGES

Loud Voices

It may come as a shock, considering our pets love when their owners excitedly greet them, but these sudden and loud exclamations can actually frighten them. Though all animals are different when it comes to their triggers, some have an aversion to loud yelling, even sans an angry tone. Dr. Miller says that rooting for your favorite sports team during a game or cheerily welcoming a guest into your home may scare your furry companions.

Fresh cucumber slices on a wooden cutting board

Unfamiliar Objects

According to Dr. Fox, pets can be skeptical of certain objects, which may lead to fear and anxiety. For example, some cats jump in the air and run away at the sight of a cucumber (and other unfamiliar stationary objects). "The seemingly exaggerated reaction is likely due to the sudden appearance of an unusual object in their environment," she says. "Cucumbers are not common objects to cats—so the sudden appearance of one in a familiar space can scare them."

girl playing with dog
Elizabethsalleebauer / Getty Images


While it's not uncommon for pets to be scared of strangers, they may also exhibit signs of stress and anxiety around children, too. While Dr. Fox notes that it really depends on your companion's personality type, children can scare pets, as they typically demonstrate inhibited behavior when approaching an animal. This fear or apprehension can read as aggression to your pets. "Teaching your children how to safely approach a pet is important to prevent potentially dangerous interactions," Dr. Fox says.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles