Q&A: How To Help Your Cat Not Be Afraid of Strangers

Jackson answers your questions via video.

 “How do I help my cat not be so afraid of strangers?”

Jackson shares really simple but effective tips and tricks on how to help scaredy cats become braver cats.

Long before Jackson got his own T.V. show…

Jackson co-developed and started using his own line of holistic remedies for animals (not just cats, but for cats, dogs, horses, birds…even dolphins, donkeys, pigs, and spiders have used the remedies!  NOT kidding!)  Holistic veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve was the other co-developer.

The remedies go by the name Spirit Essences.  (They’re not essential oils, they’re not homeopathic remedies.  They’re essences.  Essences are a separate modality from oils or homeopathy, though they are considered part of the holistic health field.)

Among Spirit Essences’ bestsellers are remedies especially to help cats who are afraid, shy, and in need of a sense of security.

Jackson named all the remedies himself, and uses them on almost every single case he works with, to this day.

He named one of the bestselling remedies Scaredy Cat.

Another, Safe Space for Cats.

Here are their descriptions:

Scaredy Cat

This is for the closet cat or the one who runs or cowers from touch, even from loved family members.  If your friends have never seen your cat, this is the right remedy for him or her!

Safe Space for Cats

Safe Space for Cats was formulated to help construct an energetic “bubble” around your cat.  In other words, this remedy helps reassure the cat that his territory is safe and protected from intruders from within and without.  You will notice a drop in urine-marking, aggression toward other animals, and increased self-confidence.

  1. Julie bade   July 19, 2012 at 8:43 am  

    First off, I Watch the show all the time and have already picked up on valuable tips! The thing with my cat “phooey” is she IS so loving towards family and other pets but turns into the devil when friends or strangers visit. She is unbearable! Help lol

  2. Connie   July 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm  

    I so could use both of those for help in taming fosters..

  3. Aimee Sapp   July 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm  

    I have a unique question….how do I get my cats to stop humping my friends when they sleep over? I think it’s something in the materials in the blanket, but who can afford to go out and buy all new blankets?

  4. Jenny   July 20, 2012 at 6:59 am  

    I will have to try that with my feral (she decided that inside was better than outside in the winter and never wanted to go out again) shes good with us but sometimes scared of others. Will have to use feather toy instead of food though. She can’t eat dry stuff.

  5. Valerie Crawford   July 20, 2012 at 10:59 am  

    I have a cat that, when he is being affectionate, likes to chew on my fingers and bite me. What can I do to stop this behavior?

  6. Jannine   July 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm  

    I also have a cat problem. I rescued a cat roughly seven weeks ago from my boyfriends house. He was abandoned by a family who just dropped him off and left him. After he got used to my family and boyfriend, he got extremely relaxed. I’ve had many cats before, but never had this problem. If he sees someone nearby with food, he crawls up in their lap and cries until we let him have some. He also has a REALLY bad habit of biting and scratching people. If you can give me any advice as to what to do, I would be so thankful!

    1. comanchemoon   August 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm  

      For the food issue, try a self feeder so he can go and eat when he likes instead of waiting to ambush ppl for treats. For the scratching and biting, just play with him, wear him out. Just be sure you use something other than hands to play with him so he learns hands and ppl are playthings. Gl.

      1. comanchemoon   August 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm  

        I meant so the cat knows ppl arent playthings sorry

  7. Brianna   July 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm  

    Hi. I have a cat, her name is Addy. I’ve had we since her kitten days, she’s an inside cat, she only goes out when I take her, I have a dog, they get along I’m just worried about her and other cats. She has never gotten along w cats I don’t want to leave her outside alone to get hurt. Idk what to do.

  8. Sarah   July 24, 2012 at 5:29 am  

    I recently added a young male to my home. Overall he is a good cat, uses the litter box, etc. The problem I’m having is the interaction with my older female. He torments her so badly that we have to lock her up so that she can use her box and eat. We are to the point of taking him to the pound and it breaks my heart. Please help me save my cats.

    1. Jacquie Gardiner   December 18, 2012 at 10:10 am  

      I hope this reply is not meant to be a solution but to say that I have the exact same problem. I have had two older spayed females for over 10 years. About 2-3 years ago we found a male hiding in our heated shop and befriended him (and had him neutered and vaccinated), assuming he was a drop off. He is very intelligent but terrorizes one older female to the point that he bit her and she developed an abcess which had to be surgically treated. Since that time, we have separated the two. We feed all three together under supervision. When allowed, the male will stalk the female in question. What is ironic is this female was the one who dominated our second female; the second female seems to relate alright with the male-we can leave them alone together. I walk around with a portable child gate which I use to divide space within the house; use of space is allowed in “shifts” never allowing the older female and younger male together. We also have two dogs-hound/shepherd X & rotti/shepherd X-who get along well with all cats and even seem to “police” aggressive interactions between the cats by putting their own bodies between the two cats. I need a solution to work towards.

  9. Tricia   July 25, 2012 at 9:25 pm  

    My sister has 2 cats that are absolutely terrified of everyone and everything except my sister and her boyfriend. My sister put a bowl of homemade chicken broth on the kitchen floor as a treat for the cats. Neither one would even go into the kitchen. When she comes home from the store, they hide until she empties the bags and puts them away. They were even afraid of a scratching post!

  10. Jennifer   August 4, 2012 at 10:29 am  

    Our cat Olivia was loving and friendly up until she was spayed. Since we brought her home from the Vet , the past few months she has been vicious towards family and friends and at times to my husband and I. My own mother refuses to visit because she is terrified of Olivia. Olivia has such anxiety that she is hardly ever able to relax. she is constantly on guard even when napping. Ready to attack. Just being in the same room with her when guests are over,she will hiss and scratch and bite. She is also terrified of the dark. she refuses to use her litter box at night if her nightlight is off. We don’t have any other pets and no children. We don’t pick her up or go to her to pet her anymore like she aloud us when she was a kitten. She will not let ANYONE touch her unless she wants to be touched (very rare). We keep our house and her litter box very clean and she even has her own bedroom along with various toys which we play with her with and a cat tree. No one and nothing is here to hurt her. How can I convince her of this? I don’t know what to do to ease her anxiety. Could she be traumatized by being spayed? It has been 5 months since her spaying…. We love her very much and have given her our all! I don’t know what else to do to help her! 🙁

    1. Julie (France)   September 13, 2012 at 2:23 am  

      Hi Jennifer !
      Funny you mention the spaying trauma…. my 2 were very outgoing kittens @ 5 months but since the spay are absolutely terrified of people,if anyone comes to the house or they hear a car …voom…. gone!
      This is 18 months ago & nothing has changed,they are ok with us but strangers are a no no.Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

    2. Erica   April 5, 2013 at 8:05 am  

      I’m thinking that there may be something regarding the healing of the incision and internally. My own husband ended up with a leftover stitch on his back several months after his surgery. It itched terribly which is precursor to pain. Have a good look at the incision. Is it red? raised? a stitch leftover? If you can take her to the vet.

    3. Vanessa   July 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm  

      I know you said it started when you brought her home from being spayed, but it could be from (depending on if you had her when she was a kitten or not) when she was a kitten and how you treated her. I’m not saying you’re a bad pet owner (mostly because I don’t know you) but if you had her when she was a kitten, did you ever play with her to much? Picked her up and not letting her down no matter how much she squirmed? If so, she may not be as loving and cuddley as she once was and needs to be left alone for a while. Unless she whines and begs for attention (in other words, rubbing on your leg(s) or getting on your lap and/or nuzzling you hand to be petted. Try to give her space and only give her attention if she askes for it.

  11. Renee   August 21, 2012 at 6:38 am  

    I recently moved my father to assisted living, and became the new parent of an extremely scared cat. This cat was a stray when my dad got him, and has spent the last 6 years living in the corner under my dad’s desk. He would come out to play with dad sometimes, and would roam the apartment at night, but never sit on anyones lap, sometimes he would sit next to you if you had the brush.
    My home has 2 other cats, and is much larger, with many more hiding spots. It took 3 days to locate “Kitty” after she moved in. Now she lives in the basement rafters, perching on a bookshelf that she will not leave. The litter boxes are in close proximity, but I recently discovered that she is not using them. Instead she chose a rafter alley to designate at the bathroom. UGH I have closed off all access to the rafters, but now i fear she will just find another spot. She has not tried to mingle with the other cats, and is fearful when they try to approach her. I spend about an hour each day on a ladder petting and feeding her. I can pick her up…she hates it and will fight me… and I always pet her and put her back, trying to gain her trust. She purrs and meows when she sees me, but I don’t know how to integrate her into the family.

    I would appreciate any direction you could lend.

  12. Pamela Bishoff   September 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm  

    Our previously feral cat who is now spayed and totally indoors is great except we can’t pick her up. She has an extremely bad eye infection that needs to be looked at by a Vet and we will be moving out of state and have no idea as to how to move with her. The move will be from California to Florida. If we drive it will be awful trying to get her in and out of a cat carrier into a hotel each night and next morning. If we fly I have no idea how she would handle the long flight let alone once again trying to get her into the carrier. I am afraid this whole experience will traumatize her. It has only been 1 and 1/2 years since she has been totally indoors. As a result “Mama” can still be jumpy and exhibit “odd” behavior. Please help.

  13. Kylie   October 3, 2012 at 10:15 pm  

    Hello, I have two major problems I have a smart kitty whos 1 year old she is so friendly when people come over but she will try to get bite if nobody is paying her any attention even me as her owner what do I do ? And the other problem I have is what do I do to try to keep her from the getting out the front and back door ? I am also try to figure out how to stop her from the climbing my counter tops but she doesn’t go on them that much she has been doing better !!!! please help !!!!!

  14. Jackie B.   December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm  

    Were having a problem with our two female cats. We found them both outside but they are 12 years apart. The 13 year old is being attacked by the 1 year old and i dont know what to do anymore. We tried seperating them but as soon as i leave my door open the 1 year old attacks again. The oldest is scared and wont leave my room and is now having accidents, developed asthma, and is scared to use the litter box. On top of her attacking my cat, she hisses and swats at me when i try to pet her. We also have a male cat who is 11 and she doesnt bother him, my father or brother. My mother on the other hand is in the middle. The cat is sometimes nice but occasionally hisses and swats at her also. Help!! What do i do? P.S. All 3 of the cats have been fixed.

  15. Deb   December 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm  

    I recently visited my son for 10 days out of state.
    My daughter was here with our 4 yr old female cat.
    My daughter came out to visit and is still there.
    Our cat was left alone for two nights.
    When I returned she acted ok at first but she is now treating me like an intruder.
    She has attacked me twice today.
    She has been aggressive in the past and doesn’t like anyone but my daughter and I usually.
    I can count on one finger the number of times she has attacked me before now.
    I am desperate. I need help!

  16. Deb   December 29, 2012 at 9:16 am  

    I have a 4 yr old female cat. I recently visited my son out of state for 10 days. My daughter was home with the cat for 8 of those days. The cat was alone for 2 nights.
    When I arrived back home on Thursday evening she appeared ok at first. She was acting a little funny but appeared ok.
    Yesterday I fed her and even gave her a treat.
    She sat on my lap and turned around and started hissing. I walked down the hall and she started a full blown attack. I ran into my bathroom to clean my scratch wounds and she held me at bay in the bathroom for quite awhile.
    I finally left the room and kept her in my bedroom.
    When I got ready to go to bed I let her out of the room and closed my door. She tried to attack me again.
    She walked the halls and meowed pretty much all night. I have not left my room and she is still meowing outside the door.
    I am desperate and need serious help.
    I talked with a friend who used to breed cats.
    She suggested pherone plug in spray.
    I believe it’s Feelaway or something similar to that spelling.
    Anyone tried it or have other ideas.
    I want my kitty relationship back.
    Help please.

    1. Ellen   January 16, 2013 at 10:51 pm  

      Hi Deb, I hate to hear that–it must be miserable for you and it sounds tough on the cat either. Two susggestions here, and you may have already done this–ask your sister if anything unusual happened to the cat while she was there. Sometimes non-cat owners don’t quite think in those terms.Also find a vet who specializes in cats—it’s possible the cat is in pain in some way that doesn’t show. And get the vet to come to your house—when you explain that the cat is dangerously unmanageable and you can’t get close to it let alone put it in a carrier, they WILL make house calls. After that, I can’t see what you can do–you have certainly tried everything else.

      I did try to pherome thing to help my new cat bond with my old cat, but it just made us all sneeze. They are friends now, but they took a while getting there! Please let me know what happens….I am really rooting for you.

  17. Judy   March 3, 2013 at 5:40 am  

    I watched the video of the girl giving her cat a bath and ended up scratched and bitten bad. I believe she needs to change her stategy if bathing in the tub.First, get the bath water in the tub ( no soap) hold the cat with bathroom door shut and hold cat to feel secure. With her wearing old light pants and shirt, step into the tub still talking to the cat to comfort it. Slowly get down on her knees to introduce the cat to the water. Basically she will get in the tub and give the cat comfort and support to the cat during the whole bath deal. Don’t get in a hurry if cat starts getting mad and trys to jump out, comfort and talk to the cat telling it that it will be ok. Tking it slow and using her body to help support the cat and constantly reassuring the cat it wil be ok does help greatly. this is what i have to do with my torti who is 5 yrs old now and she has gotten much more comfortable with her bath in the tub as i did this every time. She does not fight with me as much wanting out and now i dont get bitten or scratched anymore. A bath needs to a progressive project together. Yes you take a bath with the cat.

  18. Daniel   April 1, 2013 at 7:43 am  

    Jackson I am 12 years old and i watch your shows every day and i need your help i have a cat named Valerie she always love to play but when i come to pet her her tail start to twitch and she scratched me and bit me when my parents saw this they immediately pushed me away and called Animal control I refused for them to take her i love her soo much i just need help to fix her

  19. Nancy   April 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm  

    Some great suggestions, Jackson! My two girls are Maine Coon mix and were feral kittens. My sister always jokes about the “invisible cats” when she comes over. I’m going to try your ideas!

    1. Lynn   May 22, 2014 at 10:30 pm  

      Aside from the Essences, what else can be done? My Teenie Boo is afraid of strangers and now a vacant house next door has sold and she will not come out from under the bed until very late, and we have to get sleep. Do you know of other tips in addition to Jackson’s remedy? Thanks!

  20. Jenny   July 31, 2013 at 6:58 am  

    You said to try to lure them out with treats, but I live in a multi-pet home. Also one of our cats doesn’t really like treats, can you suggest any other techniques?

  21. Erin   August 24, 2013 at 9:43 am  

    AAAAHHH! We need more new episodes! Please comeback soon! (ps – we are going to a shelter today to begin the kitty search. I hope you have a how-to video on here somewhere!). LOVED your book, LOVE your show – thanks for all you do. Stay well, heal that back!

  22. Chelsea   October 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm  

    Okay, so I have a 2 year old male tuxedo cat. We adopted him when he was about 2 months old. From the get-go he was extremely sweet, affectionate, and loving to my 6 year old son, my husband, and myself. Then, when our cat was about 10 months old my husband deployed for 9 months. When he returned home our cat was physically shaking with fear of him. A few months later our cat finally stopped shaking, but he is still scared of him. Time has passed and my husband has been home for almost a year and things have not gotten any better, other than from the shaking. Our cat will rarely rub up against his leg and that’s only when he’s giving him treats. My husband has tried desperately re-connecting with him…for example being the one to give him treats, soft food, refilling his water and food bowl etc. What else can he do? He can’t even pet his own cat….. It breaks my heart. I just don’t understand how their relationship was so wonderful and now it’s dwindled into basically nothing. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  23. hawkechik   January 18, 2014 at 6:55 am  

    Oh, my, That top photo looks so familiar. When anyone comes to the house, starting from the time the doorbell goes, there’s a rush by our three boys to the safe space under the bed. I don’t think anyone else except for my sister has ever even *seen* Mithril. He’ll eventually come out, but only when they move from the “stranger” to “not a stranger” column.

  24. bethany   February 16, 2014 at 10:21 am  

    I have a 3 year old cat, we found him when he was 10 weeks old. his name is Chance. When he was about a year old he started sleeping under the covers. at first it was for naps or when we were sleeping. but now you cant get him out from under them. when you try to get him out he seems tarified and will do anything to get back under something. like when we change the sheets he will try to crawl up my husbands shorts. lol but it really worries me. because he is starting to get really fat. he only comes out to eat drink and bathroom. and its always right at 9:30-10:00pm. what can i do to get him to come out.

  25. Crazy cat lady   June 21, 2014 at 10:38 pm  

    I can’t see the video. 🙁

  26. Nick Toerner   November 29, 2014 at 11:08 am  

    I have a cat that has meowed all morning for no reason. She has food, clean litter box, and water. Now she is hiding under ther sink in the bathroom. What should I do?

    1. OLIVIA   April 9, 2016 at 7:37 pm  


  27. Lily Gold   March 24, 2015 at 9:28 am  

    I tried to watch this video, but it says it’s private- how can I access? Even if I’m logged in to Youtube, still can’t watch.

  28. Audrey   August 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm  

    Hi there, I have a two year old cat that sucks her tail like a binky. She has been doing shortly after reaching six months of age. I figured she might have been weaned too early as a kitten but I can’t get her to stop. I’ve washed her tail thoroughly but she’s back at it within the hour. The saliva on her tail drips all over and the end of tail is quite sensitive due to the sucking. She doesn’t have a skin condition on her tail that I can see, nothing is patchy or red but I’m worried that that she might further create problems for her tail with the constant suckling. I’ve heard on the internet that pet “no chew” sprays help a little for sucking problems but sounds a little sketchy. Any advice?

  29. Kitty Leuty   September 15, 2015 at 12:55 pm  

    I have a cat issue, maybe people might be able to help. Nora is not my cat, she is my room mate’s cat and he seems to think that it’s okay to keep the cat locked in his room all the time. Just one little room. When she came here she was the paralyzed kind of fear in a corner. For more than a week. I’ve been trying to convince him to socialize her for a bit, but he seems to think that she is perfectly fine.

    Onto the real issue about Nora. She is a sweet little cutie, meows a lot… Seems to STARVE for treats and loves the laser pointer as per usual. Loves to curl up and snuggle and attack hands and feet (playfully, not out of hostility, never causes any form of damage). She seems like a perfectly normal kitten until you stand up. Or anyone is standing or walking. She arches her back and hisses to people on their feet moving or not.

    I feel like the more she is exposed to people moving on their feet and rewarded if she ever DOESN’T cower, that she’ll get better. Is there any source, recognized source, on how to tackle this issue and the issue of my room mate keeping her locked into one tiny room that I can direct him to and show him that he’s creating a neurotic cat? Hopefully so we (the other room mates and I) can encourage him to facilitate happy, healthy behavior in Nora?

  30. Daphne   April 2, 2016 at 2:54 pm  

    My mom adopted our two cats, grey american short-hair, Patty and Jenny about 6 years ago. They were found in an abandoned home when they were just kittens. Since we’ve had them they’ve always been very skittish and afraid of new people. I just moved into a new apartment with my boyfriend and we took in the cats, since my mom moved to a different country and couldn’t take them with her. They’ve slowly been getting friendlier towards us, but still get scared easily. Our neighbors aren’t very loud, but they seem startled by the front door opening and people walking around outside our apartment door. We were able to keep a lot of my mom’s living room furniture and blankets that they were familiar with, along with their cat tree that i have next to our living room window for them to perch and look outside. They also don’t seem to like being approached very directly. Walking towards them during the day seems to scare them. Whenever they are scared or startled they run and hide under our bed or chair in the living room. How do I make a more comfortable environment for them so they don’t have to scurry and hide if they get startled?

  31. OLIVIA   April 9, 2016 at 7:36 pm  

    Hi, my cat Bastion is a Red curl Tabby and he is absolutely terrified of close to everything. Especially people coming over. As soon as he hears the doorbell ring he goes running for the basement to hide and you don’t see him until hours after the visitors leave. If he hears a car door slam across the street he will get up while your playing with him to be ready to hide. He is afraid of cat treats and even catnip so rewards don’t really work. He is not violent in the slightest and he has never gone to the bathroom outside the litter box so he doesn’t show his anxiety much. He is sometimes even again of us if we make to much noise, laughter can send him into hiding. He has no history of abuse or visitors bring a threat. We have another cat Moonlight his blood sister and she is also timid occasionally but she is willing to be in the same room as strangers, even let them pet her. Im asking for advise because I feel very bad for Bastion and I wish he wasn’t so terrified all the time. I’d like to know if there’s anything I could do to make him less scared and more calm.


We regret that Jackson does not answer questions posted in the comments. This is due to his demanding schedule and the high volume of requests he receives. But most importantly, since he has not met your cat, it would be contrary to his approach for him to give specific personalized advice for your specific situation. That being said, general questions and issues are addressed throughout this blog, in his book Cat Daddy and of course, the show My Cat From Hell.

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