When you do the training session, pay attention to lighting and noise. If it’s nighttime, adjust the lighting so it isn’t very bright. Your cat will most likely feel a little less vulnerable without bright light in the room. Noise is a factor as well. Don’t have television blasting or loud music playing. I recommend having soft music in the background such as calming classical or new age. Another aspect of noise to consider is vocal volume and tone. Keep your conversation with your visitor in a calm and reassuring tone — no loud voices or laughter that might startle your cat.
Time your training sessions when the house will be calm. Don’t do a training session on the afternoon that your spouse will be mowing the lawn or the exact time the kids will be expected home from school.
The Scaredy Cat
When the visitor comes in, if your cat runs and hides, don’t panic. Let your guest get settled, take a few minutes to visit and then excuse yourself so you can go check on your cat. Casually go to him and conduct a low-intensity play session to a minute, if he’s up for it. Don’t drag him out from under the bed or poke the toy in his direction. If he’s under the bed, just sit on the floor nearby and casually move the toy in an enticing way. The message you want to convey is that everything is fine and that there’s no need to be afraid. You cat may peek out to play or he may stay hidden. It doesn’t matter. The message will reach him. If he does come out, play with him. If he peeks his head out from under the bed, click and reward. Any baby steps should be rewarded. Then, go back to your guest. This brief visit with your cat conveys the message that all is ok in his world. If he sees that your demeanor hasn’t changed and that you’re very calm, it may help him feel less stressed. Remember, cats are little emotional sponges and they easily pick up on our emotions. If you’re worried or you try too hard to interact with your cat, you’ll just set off alarm bells in his head.
If your cat ventures out of the bedroom and makes an appearance in the room where your visitor is located, click and reward. You can also have the interactive toy nearby and conduct another play session. Keep the toy a good distance from the visitor though so your cat can stay within his comfort zone. Again, your demeanor matters here. Be calm, use a soothing tone of voice and act as if all is perfectly ok in the cat’s world.
The Watch Cat
For a cat who takes on an aggressive approach with visitors, you can do the same technique. Make sure the visitor makes absolutely no attempt to interact. Click and reward the cat for looking at you or moving away from the door. Call him to a specific location (such as his cat tree) and click and reward him when he responds.
Conduct a low-intensity play session with him or offer treats when he’s in the room with the visitor. You can even feed him a meal while the visitor is there. Just be sure the cat is far enough away so he feels safe and secure.