Cat Host with the Most

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how to train a cat not to hiss at visitors.

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Q: I’ve raised my now 8-month-old cat Meatball (male, neutered, tabby, medium-length hair) since he was 2 weeks old.

He is very active, loves to play and needs to be by my side at all times, which is very cute. Meatball gets along well with me and my fiancé. However, when we have company over, he stays in the room and hisses at them from the moment they walk through the door until they leave. He does this with both our male and female guests. He’ll even jump into their laps just to hiss.

It’s not cute anymore. He is getting bigger and shows no sign of stopping. Please help me with this situation. How am I supposed to get him to be more sociable and not make our guests feel uncomfortable?

A: It is not uncommon for cats that weren’t exposed to different people and situations as kittens to display aggression and/or fear behaviors.

Your cat can become a more accepting host with patience, delicious treats and a little help from your cat-loving friends.

Start by inviting one friend over to your house. Your friend needs to be prepared to sit quietly in one spot during the visit. Engage your friend in a conversation, using steady and calm tones. Make sure your guest is armed with Meatball’s favorite treats. While you are talking, ask your friend to nonchalantly throw an occasional treat in Meatball’s direction without looking directly at him.

If Meatball jumps in your guest’s lap and hisses, ask your guest to turn away or stand up, allowing Meatball to harmlessly fall to the floor. It is important that Meatball becomes the invisible cat if he hisses and/or acts out. No treats are tossed to him if he vocalizes nastiness. Additionally, do not punish or yell at Meatball. Instead ignore him when he is misbehaving.

If possible, have your friend come over multiple times. Each time your friend should toss Meatball the treats. Your friend should never try to approach Meatball. Give it time, don’t force your cat. He’s on his own schedule. After he starts to behave, invite another friend over and go through the same process. After a while, Meatball should start to feel a little more secure and not respond to strangers through hisses.

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Reader Comments

Brie    IC, IA

3/24/2008 5:14:47 PM

Useful, thanks!

moni    Boise, ID

3/24/2008 4:09:33 PM

Boy do I need this, thanks!

Laurie    Erie, PA

3/24/2008 2:16:57 PM

My cats we both raised in a very socialized environment. Most breeders strive for this. Everyone wants a cuddly friendly cat, not a scardey cat. These are good tips if you cat is shy or afraid.

Noelle    Beecher, IL

3/24/2008 11:44:11 AM

Good question. My cat can be very skittish around new people as well. He usually hides from them.

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