Ask Lyle – How can I learn to meet new people?
My name is Onyx. Every time anyone comes over to visit, I get scared, shy, and feel threatened. I run and hide either in the basement curled up in mom's clothes or inside of mom's chair. I hiss at people too. How can I be more comfortable with visitors? Mama said to tell you that I'm a male, neutered, Manx cat. I'm about 9 months old. Mama turns the heater on for me & checks on me a lot to give me hugs & kisses but I still won't come out until all the visitors are gone.
Thank you for your time!
Dear Obscure Onyx,
Thanks for writing in! Let me start by saying that there are all different kinds of cats out there, and some are just naturally more nervous around new people. My brother, for example, doesn't really like to meet anyone new, whereas I insist on being the first (and last) guy to greet anyone who comes within 20 feet of my house. If you are hiding the entire time your visitors are there, it sounds like you really don't enjoy it. If it is important to your Mama that you learn to meet people, I think it is worth a try too! Here is what I recommend. Have your Mama pick one of her friends who is already a cat person, and who knows about the special needs of guys like you. It is important that this person has experience with cats because some people just aren't aware that their actions can be quite frightening for timid guys like you and my brother.
So, once your Mama has selected the right person for the job, she should then set up a date for the two of you. If there is a small room that you like to hangout in, that is a good spot to have the meeting (somewhere contained where you can't escape and hideout until they leave). This nice person just wants to meet you and see how pretty you are, so it is your job to be brave and show them. The first few meetings might just be the two of you sitting in the room, getting used to each other. Cats like you can be easily scared off if someone is too aggressive (even attempting to pet you can be too much if you aren't ready for it).
It is important that the new human also avoid eye contact with you, as you know that is a sign of aggression between cats. Have them lay on the floor near you (completely still), and let you explore around them (the bonus here is that they will look pretty darn silly, so you have nothing to fear). You also know that cats are very sensitive to smell, so the person should let you have a smell of their hand (or if they wear glasses, the ear piece of those work well too because they are infused with the person's smell). Again, make sure they allow you to smell on your terms, and from a non-threatening body position. After these kinds of careful, slow interactions, you might find that you will allow them to have a pet, and maybe even enjoy it if the person gives you some of your favourite food or a little treat.
A combination of the right person, the right situation for you, and a patient and non-aggressive approach is the best way for you to learn to trust outsiders. And trust me here, you want to meet them!! New people are the absolute best–I meet new friends like every day, whether they want me to or not!
Thanks for writing in, and please update me with your progress!
If your cat has a question for Lyle. just write him at asklyle(at)moderncat.com, and he will be happy to answer them. Don't forget to include a photo of the cat who needs advice so that we can post it with his response! Follow all of Lyle's adventures on Instagram, @Lylestagram