Why is my cat scared of strangers or visitors?

Cats may be fearful of strangers or visitors for several reasons. A common reason is lack of experience with visitors when they were kittens. If cats were not introduced to different people during their socialization period (three to nine weeks of age), they may be more apprehensive of strangers as adults. Additionally, the arrival of visitors is often accompanied by other scary things such as knocking, large packages or suitcases being moved about, loud talking and laughing. Just like people, some cats simply possess more timid or less social personalities or temperaments. Studies have shown that kittens born to fearful fathers are often fearful themselves.

Your cat’s ability to generalize and display calm behaviour toward all strangers will depend on how often you can repeat these exercises and add in different elements.

Certain types of human behaviour, like loud voices and animated movements, will cause many timid cats to become nervous. If any of the visitors (adults or children) to your home are outgoing types, you could mention ahead of time that you have a shy cat and ask if they could help by maintaining a quiet presence.

Keep in mind that behaviour modification exercises take time, and progress may be slow. In some cases, a cat will reach her limit for what she’s comfortable with, so we want to take care not to pressure pets into accepting things they aren’t able to adapt to psychologically. What this means is that some cats, for example, will never be comfortable with being picked up by a stranger, so don’t feel that you must have strangers physically interact with your cat.

Remember, the intent of your efforts is to help improve your cat’s quality of life. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may help facilitate behaviour modification. If you have questions about the behaviour modification exercises or how to apply them to your cat, please consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviourist.

Whether you already have a dog and are considering getting a cat, or vice versa, it is very important to think about their first introduction. By letting a loose cat and an off-leash dog meet each other in an open room for the first time, you are probably setting up both animals to fail. Instead, plan ahead and take your time.

Adapted from: http://bestfriends.org/resources/cat-scared-strangers