Socializing a kitten that is scared of strangers

Luvyna

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My six-month old kitten, Zephyr, is a Russian Blue and a wonderful cat in many ways - he's super affectionate with me, loves to play, fetches his toys, and is very smart. However, he is scared of strangers and will hide under the couch when someone comes into the house. He will come out in a few minutes if I speak to him gently, he will play if the stranger waves his toys around, and after an hour he will be willing to sit and sleep on the stranger's lap, but he remains skittish if strangers make sudden moves and is scared when he sees or hears sounds of unfamiliar people walking or moving around, even if they are outside. Sometimes he will get scared and hide again if a stranger surprises him or walks around.

I'm not sure if he is like this because he's a Russian Blue, which are known to be wary of strangers, or if he just didn't meet many strangers when he was at the breeder's place. I think he is well socialized in other ways though because he is very bonded to me, doesn't fear loud noises (vacuums, construction, and washing machines don't faze him), doesn't mind getting his claws clipped, and generally isn't scared of other things.

Is there anything I can do to get him to be more comfortable around strangers or is it a bit too late to reverse this as I've read that kittens should ideally be exposed to strangers between 3-9 weeks of age (or is this just his personality/a breed characteristic)? I've found it a bit hard to create positive associations with strangers for him because he's not very food motivated and won't accept treats from strangers or even from me when he's nervous. He does like to play, which works for people who come over, but not for random people passing by that he might see.
 

Neko-chan's mama

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I wouldn't worry about it too much. Being willing to sleep with a stranger after only an hour is excellent. Many cats are wary of strangers. Neko-chan often keeps her distance at first, coming out of the bedroom after about an hour to greet and sniff the guest. We didn't have a lot of people over when she was a kitten.
 

ArtNJ

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Some cats are better or worse with strangers to be sure, but I've found it can naturally vary over a cats life depending on how many visitors you are getting and how interested they are in being patient enough to bond with the cat as you are describing. When my daughter was younger and had play dates, the cats were friendly to the girls. As she got older and with the pandemic, those same cats became wary of strangers.
 

di and bob

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Many of the cats I have had for over 60 years have been scared of strangers. It is in their genes to be wary of humans who have killed and hurt them for eons. they are still very driven by instinct. They are not like dogs who are eager to please and be friendly with humans, and I wouldn't want them to be. There are too many still out there that abuse cats. My three cats right now are 8 and 9 years old and run when someone comes over and hide until they are gone. When we have overnight company I have a place in the basement set up with food/water/litterbox/bed. They stay hidden the whole time company is there, even days. What your cat is doing is completely normal, driven by instinct, a wary cat lives longer.
 
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Luvyna

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Thank you for the replies! This is all reassuring to hear and it's good to know that it's a normal behaviour. It's also interesting to hear that your cat A ArtNJ was friendly to strangers before the pandemic and wary after a long time of not seeing new people, which shows consistent environmental exposure makes a difference.
 
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