How Can I Teach My Cat to Be Less Fearful of Strangers?

Cat hiding under table
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Q. My cat is very comfortable around my husband and me, but whenever anyone comes over to our house she immediately runs and hides under the bed until the person leaves. Is it possible to build her confidence around new people?

A. It’s not uncommon for cats to be skittish around new people, or to run and hide when someone unfamiliar drops by. Cats will often perceive anything new or out of place as a potential hazard that could endanger their safety.

Although fearful felines are not uncommon, the fear your cat experiences every time a visitor comes into your home creates an environment of unrest for her and can lower her quality of life. It will help your cat's general well-being if you take steps to help her relax around new people.

Socialize Your Cat

The best way to decrease fear in cats is to socialize them while they are young. Even in cat breeds that are naturally more wary around strangers, socialization during kittenhood can lower fear levels. To socialize your kitten, expose her to different people, experiences (like visiting the veterinarian or groomer) and sounds at a level where she is comfortable and unafraid. At the same time, give her rewards she enjoys, such as canned tuna or playtime with a feather toy. This helps build her enjoyment of new sights and experiences — including unfamiliar people.

If your cat is an adult and is already afraid of new people, it’s going to be more of a challenge to help build her confidence around strangers, but progress is possible.

Get Ready for Guests

There are a few simple things you can do to make your cat feel more comfortable before a visitor comes into your home. Start by finding ways to build her enjoyment of different forms of play. There are numerous toys available, including food puzzle toys, feather toys, mice toys and even mechanical toys that move in exciting and preylike ways designed to get even the laziest cats moving.

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