Fear is a perfectly normal emotion and in certain situations is totally appropriate. However some fear responses that are reported are not classed as normal and they do not benefit them or the owner.
The genetic input from both parents can influence the reactions and responses of the offspring. Kittens fathered by bold and confident toms are in turn more likely to be confident and sociable. The mother's role is also important, as the cat will learn some of their subsequent behaviour responses by observing her reactions.
Research has shown there are three distinct groupings:
Socialising kittens that are timid and getting them to accept the sights and sounds in a normal household can be a difficult task, but patience at this stage will pay in the long run. Kittens that avoid interaction with people will not respond well to being forced to confront their fear.
Researchers in Switzerland have discovered that the feline population can be divided into two types:
Cats have two ways of dealing with situations in which they feel threatened:
Cats are solitary hunters and this independence brings with a strong instinct to protect themselves. They have a highly developed flight response and when faced with danger, real or otherwise, most cats will try to escape. This can cause problems for domestic cats who select flight as their major defence and run at the first sign of trouble, because of this they never stay around long enough to realise that the person or object was no threat. If the cat is scared of strangers he is likely to leave the home when visitors arrive or hide until they leave.
Unlike dogs who need social contact and need to be part of a pack, the cat has no need to be with people and as a result there is little incentive for them to engage in social contact. Even the lowest level of fear is likely to be accompanied by a desire to avoid interaction.
Often efforts by people to help the cat socialise can result in an increase in the problem. Cats like to feel in control and any attempts to force a cat to interact are unlikely to work.
Setting up situations so that the cat initiates contact is far more beneficial and the most important factor is patience.