Cats Who Are Afraid of People They Know

August 2019

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

Some cats behave fearfully even in the presence of familiar people. They may feel scared if they can't get away from the person when being approached. Not all cats display aggression in these cases; some cats freeze or try to flee. In all cases, their goal is to stop you from interacting with them.

A few tips:

  • Consult with a professional before the fear escalates to aggression.
  • When approaching your cat, go slow and gently talk to them.
  • Use a toy or a treat from a few feet away.
  • If the cat moves toward you to interact with you, you're on the right track and it's usually OK.Extend a hand gently and let the cat make the first contact.
  • If the cat doesn't approach or moves away, don't force interaction or follow.
  • Never reach for a cat when they are hiding, as this may make them feel cornered and become aggressive.
  • Never punish for fear or aggression. This can worsen the fear and doesn't prevent the problem from happening again.

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

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