Does your cat run for cover as soon as the doorbell rings? Hide under the couch for days if you have guest over? Read on to hear one scaredy-cat's tale of calamity and learn how to coax your kitty out of hiding.Many felines are anti-social. Maybe not towards you and your immediate family, but the sound, smell or sight of a strange person can send kitty heading for the hills (a.k.a. under the bed). The first sound of a stranger entering your home is, of course, the ringing of the doorbell or a knock at the door.
It doesn't matter what they are doing or where they are, that sound alone is a recognizable sign alerting them -- "Warning . . . strange humans about to enter your sector!"
One Kitty's "Tail"
If you think your cat is afraid when she hears a knock on the door, the following story might help put things in perspective.
Pam Bray, cat owner from Lafayette, Indiana, tells about her young kitty, Miss Bimbo's, first experience when guests arrived. "Miss Bimbo was eating in the kitchen when someone loudly knocked on the back door. She was so startled that she ran towards the back door at about the same time they came in and she jumped up on the water heater. This would have been okay but she went on over in the corner head first ? wedging herself upside down between the wall and the heater."
With some help from relatives, and almost an hour of time spent in that awful position, Bray was able to get Miss Bimbo out of her embarrassing situation but, ever since that day (many years ago), the cat has never really been the same . . . especially when company arrives. "It seems like the pattern had been set from the day on," Bray says. "She always startles easily and is just plain scared around strangers." After her ordeal, who could blame the 14-year-old feline?
Getting to Know You
Luckily, Miss Bimbo's particular trauma with strangers isn't an everyday occurrence. But if your cat is indeed spooked by strangers entering your home, you can help kitty by socializing her more and as early in her life as possible.
In fact, early socialization is a key component in getting your cat comfortable around strange people and even other animals. These "key" weeks are between the ages of two-and seven-weeks-old.
Although you shouldn't be handling a two-week-old kitten extremely often, just being around kittens when they're that young and talking to them, petting them, and exposing them to different types of sights and sounds (nothing too loud or alarming, however) as well as a variety of people, will help them to feel more at ease as they grow into adulthood.
If you really want to 'socialize' your adult cat to stop being so freaked out by strange people, you can practice making kitty more comfortable with some trusted friends she doesn't see very often.
One fairly successful exercise you can try is to have the person come in without knocking or ringing the doorbell (set it up ahead of time, though, so any person off the street won't be entering your home). Remember, the sound of knocking or the doorbell is what triggers that "flight" response in kitty's "Olympic-style" dive underneath the bed.
Once the so-called stranger is in the house, try to get kitty to come over to that person while you are with her. Let the person feed kitty a favorite cat treat. The goal is to build up trust with someone your cat doesn't already know. Pretty soon, you can advance to the stage where kitty sees the person coming through the door (still no knocking or ringing though) and then, once again, give food or praise to kitty.
Finally, the stage will come where the person, who is not quite so strange anymore, will knock or ring that doorbell and enter immediately for kitty to see the friendly, food-bearing human. All you have to do to teach your cat not to be afraid of strangers is to practice with her and let her know that someone coming through that front door does not necessarily mean a threat to her well being.
Let Kitty Be Herself
If, after calm and gentle encounters, your cat still insists on hiding, your best bet is probably just to let her continue her anti-social behavior. Her reasons, although you probably don't know what they are, may be good enough reasons to indeed fear certain strangers (especially if you don't know what her life was like before you adopted her)!
You aren't giving up -- you are just letting her feel safe when she needs it the most.
Sandra Toney has been writing about cats for 15 years. She has three cats who still run when the doorbell rings but, once coaxed out to meet the strange guests -- as long as the guests are not too aggressive or loud -- they usually warm up to them. It will always, however, be different . . . depending on the guest and each particular cat.