Is your cat escaping every time you have guests over? Are you eager to introduce your cat to your friends but cannot find him anywhere in the house? Is your cat hissing at anybody that invades its territory? Cats indeed are very territorial beings, they feel like home is their haven and having strangers and guests over may create stress and havoc in their every day lives.
Some cats may have been tolerant of strangers and guests and then suddenly out of the blue appear to be fearful or aggressive. For owners, these behavior changes may be unexplainable. However, from a cat’s point of view, there may have been various dynamics that have gone unnoticed to the most attentive owners. Questions one may ask themselves are:
Perhaps the guest could have dropped something, coughed or done something that would scare your cat more than usual? Could this person have pet the cat (and if there is carpet) given her a small shock? Perhaps this person was wearing something different that caused the cat to grow fearful? Did this person wear new shoes? Maybe this person owns dogs or pet a dog and the cat sensed it? There can be various explanations.
Sometimes cats may appear to exhbit unexplainable aggressive behaviors towards guests that never appeared before. A possibility is that perhaps the cat’s best hiding spot has been unavailble at some point (like the bottom of a bed full of boxes) and the cat was unable to hide and instead had to confront the cause of its fears.
A Cat afraid of guests chooses usually to hide rather than confront the source of his/her fears by hissing. There are so many things that can have caused this new behavior. While finding the actual real cause may be challenging, dealing with the hissing problem is easier. It is important to start as soon as possible before this problem progresses and sets in the cat’s mind as a routine.
How to make your cat more confident around strangers
The main issue to address is lessening the cat’s fear and making the cat more relaxed. There are some plug in products containing pheromones that may help in this scenario (Feliway). In any case, the cat should start associating the guest or friend with good things.
A good starting point is stopping the cat from seeing the guest upon arrival. Cats see people standing up and walking as more threatening. Rather close the cat in a room and let her/him out only once this person is sitting down on a sofa or chair. Then open the door. Let kitty out. Never force the cat out though, this may make problems worse.
Once the door is open, the cat may stay in the room for some time but most cats are curious and eventually will come out. Now you should find some treats your cat is really crazy about and make a trail that leads from the room where the cat was closed to this person. See how close the cat will get to this person. Try to do this every time this person is over if feasible and praise lavishly when the cat gets closer and closer.
The guest may even toss a few treats (being careful not to scare the cat with sudden movements) to let the cat come closer. As long as there is progress and the cat does not hiss, you know something is working. As kitty gets closer give this person a string and see if she/he will engage in a game.
Cats bond a lot with people that play with them. Kitty will soon be so engaged in the game that she/he will have forgotten all about the enemy. You can even have this person carry some catnip and let this person give it to your cat. Catnip causes cats to relax and get a “high”. This pleasurable experience will be associated with this person.
As an alternative, let this person wiggle some cat grass and let your cat play and nibble on it. As she gets relaxed, try to feed her/him meals in the same room but at a distance when this person is around. Now, once the cat seems more comfortable, try to see if when this person gets up from the couch kitty gets intimidated. It could be the cat is somehow intimidated by this person’s body posture or by the fact this person may move suddenly.
Cats are sensitive creatures, they do not like sudden movements, loud voices and confusion in general. You always want a quiet, relaxed environment for your cat. If you must throw a party, or have guests that laugh loud, scream or have hyper kids, it is best to have kitty closed in a dark quiet room to avoid her to be traumatized. This takes a lot of patience, but most cats will learn with time that most people are not harmful. The secret is to break the hissing or hiding habit. But a lot of caution is needed: allow one person to scare your cat involuntarily one time again and she/he may go back to his/her antics.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.