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Why Is My Cat Scared of Strangers? 6 Possible Reasons

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

shy scared cat in bucket litter box

Cats are known for being less playful and social than dogs, but cats still generally like to be around people. Occasionally, cats may become scared of strangers, though. When this happens, you want to figure out why your cat is afraid of strangers so you can provide them with the safest and most relaxing environment possible.

Below, learn about six possible reasons your cat is afraid of strangers. These explanations can help you socialize your cat with people better so that they are less stressed out whenever guests come to your home.

Top 6 Reasons Cats Are Scared of Strangers:

1. Breed and Personality

Image By: PDPics, Pixabay

It’s a simple fact that certain individuals are less social than others. Just as this is true of humans, it is also true of cats. Some breeds and individual cats may be resistant to strangers for no reason other than they are introverted and prefer to be by themselves.

What To Do

If this is the case for your cat, there’s likely not much you can do. You can try to socialize your cat, but don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do. If their personality is to blame, there isn’t much you can do anyways.

2. No Early Socialization

Socialization is key to having a social, happy cat. The earlier you can socialize your cat, the better. Kittens that are exposed to different people and animals grow up to be social and comfortable around new people and animals.

If your cat was not socialized from an early age, it is likely that your cat gets nervous around strangers. In other words, your cat did not learn the skills it needed to socialize and feel comfortable with new people.

What To Do

Although it’s better to socialize your cat as early as possible, socializing them at a later age is better than not really socializing them at all. If you know your cat needs socialization, slowly introduce your cat to new people and animals. Eventually, your cat will get comfortable as they become more familiar with them.

3. Past Events

cat looking scared and hating bath time
Image Credit: JSep, Shutterstock

Cats have very good memories. If they were abused in the past, they likely will be hesitant around many people and strangers. They do this out of a sense to preserve themselves, and who can blame them?

What To Do

If your cat is afraid of strangers because of some past event, it’s important not to make your cat feel stressed or pressured. Instead, try to create a relaxing and stress-free environment so your cat knows that it is safe.

Try to create new, positive memories with your cat instead. For example, invite a friend over who you know is quiet and gentle. Have that friend begin to feed your cat so that they will start to learn that not all people are bad. This technique will take some time, but it will help to make your cat more comfortable around people.

4. Stressful Environment

Sometimes, cats don’t come up to strangers because the environment itself is stressful. Let’s say that you have a bunch of people over, and your cat stays hidden in your bedroom. Chances are, all the voices and noises are scaring your cat, not the strangers themselves.

In other words, the environment is what your cat is avoiding, not the strangers.

What To Do

If your home is a stressful environment, make sure to provide your cat with a safe haven. For example, make sure there is at least one room that is quiet and peaceful so that the cat can relax and recuperate from all the stress.

Additionally, don’t force your cat to socialize if the environment is stressful. This will only make matters worse.

5. Other Pets

two american wirehair cat
Image Credit: Fernando Calmon, Shutterstock

Cats tend to be skittish around other animals, including dogs and cats. If the stranger has brought another pet or even smells like another animal, the cat may be wary of coming close.

In this case, cats aren’t afraid of the stranger. Instead, they are afraid of being approached by another animal that could harm or even kill them. Needless to say, their instincts are kicking in in this regard.

What To Do

Don’t force your cat to socialize with a stranger if they have another animal or smell strongly of other animals. Allow the cat to approach the stranger and animals on their own terms. That way, the cat does not feel at risk or scared.

6. Medical Problem

Occasionally, cats can be so scared of strangers that it becomes a medical problem. For example, severe anxiety could be the cause of the fear. These are extreme cases, but they certainly are not rare or unheard of.

What To Do

If you suspect that your cat has a serious problem with anxiety or another illness, call your vet right away. Your vet will be able to diagnose the problem and treat your cat accordingly.

Tips for Socializing Your Cat

If your cat has an introverted personality or does not like strangers due to lack of socialization or past events, there are things you can do to socialize your cat better now. Ultimately, the goal of socialization is to show your cat that strangers are not a danger and that they may actually enjoy other people.

Here are some tips to follow when socializing your cat:
  • Do not harshly correct your cat whenever they try to run away or hide from other people. Yelling or punishing them will only make the issue worse.
  • Do not force your cat into a noisy or stressful environment. Instead, try to remove any noisy distractions and make the environment as stress-free as possible.
  • Allow your cat to meet new strangers on their own terms. Do not try to tease them in the process, and do not allow any other people to tease them, either.
  • Using spray pheromones can be a way to encourage cats to come out of hiding whenever strangers come over.
  • Reward your cat for coming out and socializing with treats, pets, and attention.
  • Be patient. Socialization takes a long time, especially if the cat is a victim of abuse. Be patient so that your cat has time to adjust and learn new behaviors.


Cats are generally more independent than dogs, but they still love humans. If your cat is very fearful around strangers, there is likely a reason why. These six reasons above could explain why your cat is so afraid of strangers.

Once you figure out why your cat is afraid of strangers, try to socialize them and train them to behave more socially. This will help your cat live a less stressful life. Remember, be patient during the process and understand that your cat is simply acting on instinct.

Featured Image Credit: Tung Cheung, Shutterstock

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