If your cat is afraid of visitors, you are not alone. Cats are habitual creatures and it is not uncommon for a cat to get scared when something unfamiliar (such as a stranger) enters the household.
Fortunately, many cats can be helped to overcome their fears and most can learn not to fear strangers. We will explain why your pet might be exhibiting this behavior and explain how to lessen their fear.
Why are Cats Afraid of Strangers?
Most cats are afraid of strangers simply because they have not experienced many of them before. Strangers come with new noises, new smells and new habits with which cats may be unfamiliar. Because of this, a cat’s first reaction is often fear, regardless of whether or not the stranger has done anything to explicitly upset the cat.
Some cats may have had poor experiences with people and it is not uncommon for cats that were abused or neglected to feel skittish around strangers. Other cats simply need more socialization. The scenario is different for every cat and it is up to pet parents to determine the cause of their feline’s fear.
Teaching Your Cat to be Less Afraid
Most cats that fear strangers are simply in need of socialization. Because the cat has not had much experience with strangers, she gets fearful about visitors and becomes distressed.
In order to begin training a cat like this, start as young as possible. It’s great to begin socialization with kittens, although this is not always feasible for pet parents who have adopted an older cat. Regardless of the cat’s age, begin socialization by introducing the cat to different people. Begin slowly with one person at a time and make sure that person is quiet, calm and offers the cat plenty of positive reinforcement.
If the cat needs to run away, do not force her to come back into the room. Simply reward the cat for positive behavior and keep repeating the lesson. When the cat is displaying some measure of comfort with one stranger, begin introducing other strangers more often.
Ensure that the cat always has a safe place to get away if the stimulus turns out to be too much and that visitors are calm, quiet and respectful of the cat. Encourage the strangers to play with the cat and give him or her toys or treats the cat enjoys. Although it may be a long road, skittish cats that are properly socialized will generally learn to be less fearful of people.
If the issues do not resolve after adequate socialization, consider taking your cat to the vet to rule out any underlying medical issues. Although rare, some medical complications that cause pain may result in an overly anxious cat that is fearful of external stimulus. A vet check is especially warranted if your cat has suddenly developed a fear of strangers.
Training Your Social Cat
Although fear of strangers is common in cats, many can learn to become more comfortable around new people. With adequate socialization and plenty of positive reinforcement, most fearful kitties will blossom into social butterflies in no time.