My Cat is Scared of Strangers: How Can I Help?

by Staff

Cats can portray different personalities based on their environment. Some are friendly and don’t mind strangers, while others take time to adapt to new people or environments. However, both characteristics are prone to change on various grounds. Scared cats can easily learn to trust if wowed in the right ways. For the friendly, welcoming cat, a bad experience with strangers can instill fear, thus holding back. Surprisingly a single cat can have both personalities based on their observations or taste for people. They may like or dislike it based on the stranger’s approach.

However much you wish your cat is friendly, fear is an incredible aspect that saves them from multiple problems. Animal experts don’t advise using any stranger to break the Xenophobia (cat’s anxiety). Rather request cat owners to provide potential hide areas such as empty cardboard, couch, or bed. One can purchase modular pens from brands like Clearly Loved Pets and create a secure hiding section. The hiding space allows the cat to assess the stranger and the situation before making a sound decision. It’s a social and defensive skill that shouldn’t be tampered with.

At what stage is fear developed in cats

Cat’s fear of strangers is referred to as Xenophobia. It’s developed in a cat kitten stage (three to nine weeks of age). Kittens who are never exposed to new environments, pets, or strangers develop the ‘condition” and lack socialization skills.The process is reversible, though, with much patience and training. You can start by visiting places familiar to your cat, like the neighborhood and the park. This opens the cat’s mind to multiple things and people as they grow.

Reason why your cat is scared of strangers

Strangers can be visitors (known), mailmen, Pizza guys, or neighbors. First, cat owners need to establish the type of strangers they wish the cat would socialize with. It’s okay if they are scared of the mail person or pizza guy. However, regular visitors like your mum or friends can be good strangers to start your training.

  1. Breed type or cat’s personality

Animals have some personality attributes similar to humans. Some people are friendly, while others are reserved. The same way your cat can, for no reason, love or fear a stranger. Never force your cat on people, as it increases anxiety. Let the bond form gradually through treats or naturally once the cat analyzes the stranger.

  1. Lack of early stimulation

The social aspect is developed at three to nine weeks of age. If the cat skips the social stimulation stage, they are likely to develop a fear of different things. They will learn along the way but through cautious moves. Cat owners can invite other pets (pet date/sleepover) or introduce different people during the kitten stage. This will help them build the confidence to live among different people, pets, and environments.

  1. Past experience

Bad or good memories will highly affect your cat’s socialization. Suppose the cat was abused in the past, like in a shelter, by previous owners or children. They will live in the feature of people, a fact which can’t be solved immediately. Cat owners shouldn’t add to the trauma by forcing it on people. First, create a good environment for the cat to reduce anxiety.

To start the social skills, get a friend or family member to feed them with their favorite snacks. Let the person regularly visit and repeat the nice actions. This will help change the cat’s perspective on people. Depending on the cat’s type or personality, adapting the process may take a few days or weeks.

  1. Unfriendly space

Some cats may not portray social issues but hide when visitors come by. The act is triggered by the kind of environment which might be stressful. Most visitors are family or friends meaning there will be noise (laughing, talking, or singing) and a lot of movements. In this case, the cat doesn’t like the present situation, not the strangers.To accommodate both visitors and keep the cat happy, provide it with safe hiding areas.You can have a quiet room, with a playpen and their toys.Don’t force your cat to meet your friends on such a day.

  1. Bringing other pets

Though cats are friendly, they are cautious, especially with new pets. Suppose your visitors bring their pets along. The cat may be hesitant with the person and the new pet. At this point, your cat has two strangers, your visitor and their pet. They need to familiarize themselves with the pet before be-friend the human stranger. Again don’t force the pets to interact; let them follow their instincts.

  1. Cat Anxiety

The cat may show symptoms of cat anxiety or other medical issues that cause fear. A cat owner can observe whether the problem occurs when there are visitors or always. One can get vet help to determine the problem.

Tips to improve your cat’s socialization skills

  •         Don’t punish

Never punish the cat after guest leave or get it from its hiding area. This will worsen the situation and can lead to anxiety.

  •         Reward them

Provide treats for your cat to make efforts to socialize with people or other pets. Your facial expression also gives the cat sense of belonging and confidence.

  •         Create a safe haven

Let your cat know you care by creating a hiding area far from the stressful environment. The hiding place is great even if they require rest. For kittens, it can be overwhelming living in a huge house. To narrow the space, create a kitten room where they can easily maneuver. This provides the cat with a small home within your home. As they grow older, expand the dimensions and let them explore new areas. The experience will help them analyze different areas and build their confidence.

  •         Patience

Give the cat time to learn, and provide gradual activities that help in socialization. One can opt for pet sleepovers or a pet sitter to help familiarize with people or other pets. However, don’t push the cat out of the limit. This might cause frustrations making you feel like a bad owner who can’t train a pet.

Risks of stress in cats

Increases in stress can cause health problems for your cat, besides the cat anxiety issues, which can be handled at home. Cats can develop bladder inflammation or cystitis, a condition that can increase toilet/bathroom accidents.

The cat can develop scratching behaviors to try to calm down. The problem may worsen if not addressed. One can involve a cat specialist to analyze the behavior and recommend medication. However, the medication won’t solve the socialization aspect. Once it’s okay, give it time to heal and train them later. You can investigate your cat’s breed and learn their social lifestyle. If the introvert lets the cat be, the aspect will manifest independently.


The parting shot may favor the cats; never force your kitty into any situation. It’s okay to like or fear strangers, especially those who will leave after their visit. It’s also great you’re training your cat to socialize and make new friends. Gradually, you can improve the situation with a lot of patience and love.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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