August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Fear of unfamiliar people is common and can be seen in all cats. Cats may need some time to adjust to a new home and new people. Patience and time are often needed to allow your cat to come out of their shell.

Some useful tips to help your cat feel more secure and comfortable:

  • Help your cat feel safe by providing a safe, quiet hiding spot, preferably elevated where they can relax and observe without having to interact with people.
  • Confining your cat to their own room for the first few days or when unfamiliar people are visiting.
  • Giving a fearful cat privacy. Do not approach your cat or allow others to approach your cat while in a "safe spot" or in hiding. It's best to ignore your cat and allow them to interact when they are comfortable.
  • Avoid all handling until your cat is ready and approaches you. Never attempt to pick up, grab, or hold your cat when they do not want to interact, as this can lead to fear aggression in defense.
  • Give your cat enough time to get used to a new environment and new people.
  • When your cat is confined in a room, visit often but allow the cat to approach. Use toys to engage in proactive play or find activities that interest the cat.

If the behavior is not improving or worsens, consult with a professional.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.