When Kitty is afraid of new people. Getting comfortable with visitors.

Although the response of a domestic cat to new people in their home (including visitors) will vary between individuals depending on their confidence and character, in general domestic cats will be fearful and defensive. There are one or two things which can be done to assuage some of the anxiety and make them more comfortable with visitors and new people.

Anxious Cat
Anxious Cat. Photo in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Scent acclimitization

Cats love shoes
Cats love shoes because of the heavy scent of their SO human. Picture in public domain.

If a person is going to live in the home with you and your cat (who is used to your presence only) it might be helpful if the new person allows some of his possessions including clothes and shoes to be left in the home. Your cat can sniff these objects and become familiar with the new scent. It will help to “acclimatise” or socialise him or her to the stranger who is about to arrive.


A stranger should not ring the doorbell
A stranger should not ring the doorbell. Accompany the peson into the home instead. Photo: Nest.

With respect to visitors, it may help if they do not ring the doorbell. Many cats associate the sound of doorbells with danger and run to find a place to hide. If possible, when they arrive, it would be better if you accompany them into the home. The objective is to gradually desensitise your cat to a stranger’s presence.

Passive approach

The Michelangelo technique for humans greeting cats
The Michelangelo technique for humans greeting cats. Illustration: PoC. My apologies to Michelangelo.

Visitors should not attempt to interact with timid cats on their first visit, advises Jackson Galaxy. They should enter the home and do nothing. This is a gentle approach and way to get a cat used to a new individual. There might come a time during the visit when the person can introduce themselves to the cat using the Michelangelo technique which I described on this page. It is a greeting technique which follows feline behaviour when they greet each other in a friendly way (nose touch and tail up).

Slow blink

Cat slow blink prevents an intimidating stare
Cat slow blink. Photo in public domain.

Another technique that might help is to employ the “slow blink”. This mimics the slow blink of the domestic cat which indicates feline contentment (some say it shows that your cat loves you). If a human delivers it to a cat it should signal passivity and a relaxed environment which might encourage the cat to relax themselves.

Stranger feeds and plays with cat

Playing With Interactive Toy
Playing With Interactive Toy

Another technique which may help a cat to accept a stranger is for that person to bring a treat and give the treat to your the cat at an appropriate moment. This technique applies also to a person living in the home for the first time. If that person feeds the anxious or fearful cat it will help break down the barrier. Playing with a cat does the same thing. In fact, I would suggest that playing with a cat is a great way to socialise a cat to a new person because they instinctively play and forget their anxiety. They also associate the pleasure of play with the new person which helps to lessen the anxiety caused by their presence.

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