What to do if your cat is afraid of people

Black cat on man's shoulders

When you think about adventure cats, you might imagine a feline that’s not afraid of anything. An extroverted “go-getter” and conqueror. Well, Chumka is quite very far from that description haha. He is an anxious cat, happy to stick to his comfort zone. And because we got him during covid, he wasn’t socialized to humans the way I hoped for. Unfortunately, all I could find on the internet was “how to socialize the cat”. But what about “how to help my cat to be okay around people?”

I’ve tried a number of things to help Chumka but only one of them worked as I hoped so. I will list everything that I’ve tried and what worked, so you can see if any of them could help you and your furry pal.

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Having people over

It’s not just having some of your friends for snacks or drinks. You want to use your company to bribe your cat with treats lol. That way your pet will associate humans/guests = snacks!

Now that one didn’t really work for us, mostly because Chumka has always been fine with folks coming over. Whether it was backyard or in the house, it’s his safe zone. In fact, he would often greet them (from couple feet away at first), and then he wouldn’t leave them alone lol. This is the moments where cats’ curiosity was at it’s peak.

People watching from the car

This is one of Chumka’s favourite things to do. He can sit in a car and observe what’s happening around for hours. Doing this sort of helped our cat to be less anxious – he knew that those people wouldn’t hurt him, but only after watching them for some time. I think this is a good way to expose your pet to being around people and to “the sound of people”. Chumka used to panic if he heard someone talking, even if he couldn’t see them.

Allowing people to come and pet Chumka

Honestly, this one was just me being dumb lol. I thought that maybe this would have had a positive impact – showing Chumka that people can give him love and affection. But I am pretty sure it did nothing good for us – but maybe it would work for you… Our cat doesn’t get aggressive in situations like this, so I knew he wouldn’t have hurt anyone.

Just gonna add this – I didn’t let just anyone pet Chumka. It was always a case by case situation. I stopped it when a girl decided to pick Chumka up and give him a hug 🙈 The girl didn’t speak English, so it was just a pure miscommunication

Walks around the neighbourhood

I started walking around our neighbourhood with Chumka in his backpack when the summer heat was unbearable. The irony of getting a cat so you don’t need to walk it every day… but then you train your cat to walk on leash and now you need to walk him daily or he becomes a monster lol

It was a great way to tire Chumka out mentally and to give him that “outdoor fix”. He would “chill” in his backpack (that I wore in front of me, like a proper crazy cat lady hehe) and observe, sometimes poking his head out only to quickly retrieve it back in. After couple walks (I would do the same trail), he felt confident enough to keep his head out thorough the walk. Then he tried walking on his own a little bit… And then he felt comfortable around humans!

He started feeling more confident in general, which allowed him to lower his guard a bit. Even when we took him out for “normal walks”, he was more outgoing, ready, and content – even after weeks of just neighbourhood/ backyard time.

Exploring in a safe but loud zone

This might sound weird but hear me out. We live on the outskirts of our city, so all we hear are some traffic noises and nature. Our cat wasn’t used to the sounds of kids yelling or just the usual “day to day sounds”. I think it’s a big reason why he would get anxious just hearing people talk in the distance.

We found that letting Chumka explore our family’s backyard was very helpful – he knew it was a safe area for him, but he was surrounded by city noises. Our family lives beside a big park with a baseball field, so it can get loud. But even people watching from the car was super helpful with this.

Final words

I wanted to make this post as I know it can be discouraging to deal with a problem, and you can’t find anything helpful. I know that there are plenty of pets who struggle with the fear of humans. And it’s okay! But in our case, Chumka’s fear would immobilize him, even when he heard someone in the distance. And because he enjoys being outdoors, I wanted to help him out (if I could), so his anxiety wouldn’t steal that joy from him.

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Picture of Paulina, Chumka's Mom

Paulina, Chumka's Mom