Categories: anxiety

Why do cats always run from me whether they are feral or domestic?

A person asks why cats always run from her whether they are feral or domestic. Perhaps she thinks that she’s doing something wrong or that cats dislike her for some unknown reason.

Shelter cat: Brooklyn Center – KOP. He was probably euthanised.

It’s cat behavior

The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter that much whether you’re good with cats or not when it comes to a cat’s response to a strange person.

Most cats will be very cautious with a strange person. Some cats are very outgoing and highly socialized and therefore relaxed around strange people. They might go towards them but the default behavior would be caution and retreat (the fight or flight response). Therefore a person who thinks that cats are running away from them should not feel bad about it. It is normal feline behavior.

Human behavior

There are behaviors that people can adopt to help a cat feel more comfortable with a stranger. The obvious observation is that we are much larger than them, we are super-predators and they are predators, and they are liable to be protective of their welfare until they know that a strange person is safe to deal with.

Therefore a person should perhaps reduce their height by going down onto their hands and knees (if appropriate), speak with a gentle voice, not make too much noise, move slowly, let the cat sniff the back of their hand to become acquainted with their scent and gently touch the cat et cetera.

The best way to introduce yourself to a cat, in my opinion, as to play with her because they forget that you are a stranger and simply play. As you are connected to the cat tease, the cat becomes connected to you emotionally, just sufficiently, to break down that initial barrier of anxiety. But patience is the key.

Respect the cat

Whenever I visit the home of a person who has a cat I do not expect the cat to come and be friendly with me. I expect him to retreat from me and stay away. If I approach a person’s cat it will be with gentleness and slowness. It’s about letting the cat do what they want to do and not imposing yourself on her. I may totally ignore the cat even if I’d like to introduce myself. You can get a feel through the cat’s body language and demeanor if she will accept an approach.

Individual cat personality

If you are in a multi-cat household then one of the cats might run from you while another, more confident cat, will come towards you. It’s an individual cat response because they each have their own personality.

Feral cats

Feral cats can be hard to find or see because they not only retreat from people but they hide from people almost permanently and emerge at night time. It is part of the same mentality. Although in America, judging by the stories that I frequently read, feral cat colonies are readily apparent on the streets in some parts of the country. But the feral cat will be more liable to retreat from an approaching person than a domestic cat because they are unsocialized. However, socialization does not automatically mean the cat will be confident enough to approach a stranger.


My girlfriend is a bit anxious around cats and I think my cat picks this up. In any case, she tends to do badly with cats and they run away from her. My cat does this. It makes her feel bad. However, my cat is gradually becoming accustomed to her and therefore this instinctive anxiety is being overcome. An aspect of this, though, is that a stranger should be confident enough to interact with someone’s cat because I believe that if they demonstrate anxiety through their behavior a cat will pick it up and it doesn’t help in breaking down barriers.


Cats at rescue centers are stressed because they are forced to be near and interact with strangers: both people and cats. The picture on this page shows this.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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