Why Does My Cat Hate Visitors cat with blue collar

What To Do If Your Cat Hates Visitors

Cats are fascinating animals that make great companions. They can be loving and affectionate, but at times, they can be aloof and distant, especially when they are not used to strangers. 

It’s not uncommon for cats to be wary of people and become aggressive or hide when they are around. Like most cat owners during the pandemic, you probably received very few visitors. 

If this has become a problem for your cat and you are wondering what to do if your cat hates visitors, read on.

Why Does My Cat Hate Visitors? Common Reasons Explored

Like most pet parents during the pandemic, you probably received very few visitors. So, it’s likely that you’re contemplating cat calming products and other ways to help your kitty adjust as you open up your doors again. 

To truly get to the root cause of their anxiety around unfamiliar faces, you need to know a little about cat psychology.

As a cat owner, you will also need learn some behavioral techniques that will help desensitize your cat and make them less aggressive towards visitors. Combined, these methods will create a more relaxed environment for everyone involved.

Territorial Behavior

Cats are territorial animals and can become defensive when someone enters their space. They are used to having a routine and specific areas that they claim as their own.

When visitors arrive, it can heighten their arousal, disrupt their routine and make them feel insecure, leading to territorial aggression. A common sign of territorial dominance is urinating or spraying more frequently when you have visitors over.

Fear and Anxiety

A cats hearing and sense of smell are much more acute than ours. Any new people who come to your home will sound and smell different, and for many cats, this is something to be frightened of.

If your cat runs and hides in small spaces, fear is a common reason for their anxiety. They may not understand the person’s intentions and view them as a threat.

Signs of anxiety are hissing, growling, or hiding to avoid confrontations with strangers.

Past Experiences

Unless you’ve got a purebred cat, it’s likely that you’ll have adopted your feline friend from a rescue center. You often don’t know why the animal was put up for adoption, but there is often a case of mistreatment, either intentional or just pure neglect, that makes your cat have a fear of strangers. 

Cats have a long-term memory and can remember negative experiences for a long time.

Regrettably, some individuals are unkind to animals and may deliberately harm a cat, resulting in a frightened feline. Furthermore, during routine visits, even well-meaning veterinary technicians may unintentionally cause cats to become scared or stressed out. This can lead a cat to develop a fear of people. 

The most prevalent reasons for cats being scared of people are negative experiences with them or a lack of exposure to humans in general.

Kitten Socialization

Many kittens don’t have the chance to interact with people safely multiple times during their early development. As a result, a lot of cats end up undersocialized, causing them to feel uncomfortable around unfamiliar or novel things.

Even a cat that lives with only one or a few humans can be frightened by the presence of several new humans.

Signs That Your Cat is Fearful of Strangers

cat hates visitors scared cat with arched back

Here are the most common cat behavior traits that may indicate your cat is fearful of strangers:

Aggressive Behavior

Aggression in cats is a common sign that your cat hates visitors. They may hiss, growl, or swat at people who come into their space. Some cats may even attack visitors, which can be dangerous and require intervention. When a cat hisses, it is expressing its emotional state of discomfort, fear, or stress.

A cat that hisses feels threatened, insecure, and uncomfortable, but it is often misunderstood as teasing or taunting other animals or humans.

Hiding

Cats that are afraid of new people may hide when people arrive. They may retreat to a  hiding spot they feel is a safe space, such as a closet or under the bed, to avoid contact with visitors.

Urinating Outside the Litter Box

Sometimes cats may urinate outside their litter box when they are stressed by the arrival of visitors. This behavior can be frustrating and challenging to deal with.

How to Make Your Cat Feel Safe Around Visitors

Here are some tips and techniques to help your anxious cat feel safe around visitors. 

Create a Safe Space

Creating a safe environment for your cat can help them feel more calm and relaxed when visitors are around. Provide your cat with a safe area to go where they can retreat.

This should be a quiet hiding place where they feel safe, away from human interaction. It should contain their favorite toys, litter box, and food.

Consider cat trees also where they can perch and allow the cat to observe from afar. 

Gradual Exposure

Gradual exposure to visitors can help the cat become more comfortable around strangers.

Start by introducing your fearful cat to one person at a time and gradually increase the number of people. If your cat manages to stay calm, you can reward its good behavior by offering treats, engaging in playtime, or providing some affectionate petting and attention.

If your cat is not actively seeking attention, it’s best to instruct your guests to avoid initiating physical contact with them.

This cat-centric approach to guest interactions can help your feline feel more at ease and increase the likelihood of its presence during social gatherings. By allowing your cat to feel in control of how it interacts, it can lead to a more comfortable and positive experience for all involved.

Provide Distractions

Providing distractions can help your cat focus on something else rather than the visitors.

Give them enrichment items such as interactive toys, such as puzzle feeders or catnip toys, to keep them entertained. String teaser toys are an ideal option for interacting with cats, especially when guests are present. This is because guests can remain seated while using them, which can make them appear less intimidating to the cat.

Adopting a passive body posture, such as calmly sitting, can also help the cat feel more at ease around guests. By using string teaser toys and maintaining a relaxed demeanor, guests can gradually build a bond with the cat and make their presence less daunting.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective way to encourage good behavior in cats. Consistently rewarding good behavior can help reinforce positive habits and encourage your cat to repeat them in the future.

It’s important to note that timing is crucial when giving positive reinforcement. The reward should be given immediately after the desired behavior, so the cat associates the positive outcome with their actions.

With patience and consistency, positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in shaping your cat’s behavior.

Socializing Kittens

How your kitten reacts to visitors in its home is strongly influenced by its socialization experience. Cats who did not have exposure to people or other animals during this critical period may be hesitant or even fearful of new individuals. This is often due to a lack of experience with visitors during kittenhood.

If cats were not introduced to a variety of people during their socialization period (which typically spans from three to nine weeks of age), they may be more apprehensive around strangers as adults. The arrival of visitors can be accompanied by other unsettling factors such as knocking sounds or the doorbell, large packages or suitcases being moved around, and loud noises.

To ensure that your kitten is comfortable around different people, try to expose them to individuals of various ages, genders, and appearances. People with different skin tones, beards, and wearing different fragrances may all seem unfamiliar to your cat, and could potentially cause fear or anxiety if they are not accustomed to these variations in humans.

Calming Cat Treats and Stress Reducing Products

cat hates visitors cat looking out the window

Understanding what your cat is experiencing when a new person comes to your house is the first step towards solving the issue. You can then examine the range of calming cat products that are designed to reduce stress levels. Three popular options include:

  • Pheromone spray – Like most animals, cats are considerably more responsive to pheromones than humans. Pheromones are scent particles that cats use to communicate with each other over time (think about why they spray and rub against things!). Humans have now made synthetic pheromones that mimic these natural scents to calm your cat down and induce positive feelings. For example, having a Feliway spray on hand when your visitors arrive can help your cat associate new people with feeling calm and happy. Simply spritz some around the areas of the house where your guest will be, or buy a diffuser that will release the positive pheromones throughout the duration of the visit. 
  • Cat calming collars – If you have a large home or you’ve got a lot of guests coming over for a party, it can be hard to know where to concentrate the pheromones! In this case, a cat calming collar is a great option. These will look and feel like a normal collar to your cat, but they will slowly release calming pheromones right under your cat’s nose. This means that wherever your cat is, the pheromones will follow. It can take your cat a little while to get used to the new collar, especially if they don’t regularly wear one. So, you may want to spend some time training your cat before your guests arrive. 
  • Cat calming treats – Getting your cats used to new visitors is all about helping them to build positive connections. Cat calming treats serve a double purpose towards this goal. Firstly, they give your guests a way to positively interact with your cat. Secondly, there are chemicals in the treats that have a calming effect on your cat’s brain. Feel free to use these treats in conjunction with the Feliway sprays and cat calming collars.
  • Cat calming food – Speak to your vet about anti-anxiety cat food as it can really help some cats relax, and reduce their stress levels. However, if the anxiety is intense, you may need to combine it with other tools like pheromone spray, or work with a cat behavorist. See our advice about cat calming food: Best Cat Calming Foods To Help Your Anxious Cat
  • Anti-anxiety medication – As a last resort, consider seeking advice from a certified professional such as a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist. Keep in mind that the goal of your actions is to enhance your cat’s well-being. In certain situations, anxiety medication can support behavior changes. If you have any queries about the exercises to modify your cat’s behavior or how to use them, please seek advice from your veterinarian or a animal behaviorist.

Give Your Cat Time

Cats being fearful of visitors can be a common problem. It may take some time for your cat to feel more comfortable around strangers and become fear free. With behavior modification techniques and products outlined in this article, you can help decrease your cat’s stress levels and promote normal behavior. cat behavior

The key is to understand why your cat is feeling uncomfortable around visitors and take steps to help them feel more at ease can greatly improve their quality of life. By creating a safe space for your cat, avoiding physical interactions with guests, providing positive reinforcement for good behavior, and introducing them to a variety of people during their socialization period, you can help your cat feel more comfortable and confident around visitors.

Remember, seeking the advice of a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can also provide additional guidance and support. With patience, understanding, and a cat-centric approach, you can help your feline friend feel more at ease and enjoy a happier, stress-free life.

Author

Picture of Desiree Delong, Writer & Cat Mom

Desiree Delong, Writer & Cat Mom

Desiree Delong is a devoted cat Mom and freelance writer with a passion for all animals, but especially cats. She has owned cats since she was six years old and even though she is now in her thirties, her love for cats has never faded. She continues to adopt cats and give them a safe, loving home. Currently, Desiree spends most of her time writing. In her free time, she cares for her furbaby, a tabby cat named Halo who is nearing her seventh birthday.