Cats are often aloof, taking their own sweet time to make friends with people. Those cats are confident in their cat-hood, though. They know it’s important for their reputation to maintain an air of unavailability.
Some cats, however, haven’t learned that lesson, and they’re downright shy. Often, they weren’t well socialized as kittens, or they may simply have a genetic predisposition to shyness. Russian Blue cats, for instance, are one of the breeds that tend to be uncomfortable with meeting new people.
If your cat is shy, you probably won’t ever turn them into a social butterfly, but you can take steps to help them feel more comfortable in their own skin. Whether they’re a kitten or an adult cat, the following tips may help.
Start Slow & Start Small
Shy cats take time to come out of their shells. Allowing them to get comfortable in a smaller space on their own time can bring them a sense of comfort.
Start by limiting your cat to a single room or area of your home. A little-used guest bathroom is a possibility, but if you don’t have other animals who’d be miffed at being shut out, your bedroom is an excellent choice. It smells strongly of you, so your cat can get to “know” you, even when you’re not in the room.
And sleeping in the same room with you is a good way for your cat to develop a bond with you without feeling anxious that you might approach them when they’re not feeling like interacting with you.
For similar reasons, your home office is also a good choice. You’ll be focusing on other things while you’re there, giving your cat a chance to watch you and get to know your habits without feeling threatened by your attention.
Get On Your Cat’s Level & Let Them Come To You
Try to get low so you’re not towering over your cat. The more you can get on their level, the less intimidating you’ll appear. Try sitting on the floor, and let your cat make the choice to approach.
Entice them with an interactive toy that still offers some distance, like a big peacock feather or a fishing-pole toy that they can bat at without getting too close to you. Toss out some treats to entice them to come closer.
If the cat moves toward you, don’t reach for them. Take a cue from dog trainers and use a clicker — a small metal noisemaker — to let them that you like what they did, then toss them another treat. Click and treat every time they come closer until they’re willing to get close enough to sniff you.
Wait until they’ve done this several times before you very gently waggle your fingers at them and maybe give them a scratch under the chin.
Groom Your Cat
In most species, grooming is one of the ways that relatives or friends spend time with one another. Many of us can remember how nice it felt to have our mothers brush out our hair, for example.
Your cat will appreciate the massage-like feel of being brushed or combed and come to look forward to spending that time with you.
Once your cat is comfortable enough to let you touch them, make every touch a positive experience. Brushing and grooming can build your bond and trust.
Let Them Retreat
When the cat starts responding to their name, they’re showing that they’re comfortable with you. That’s a good time to start letting them explore the rest of the house.
This can build their confidence, but it’s also important that they know they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Be sure they have easy access back to their “safe” room in case anything frightens them.
Feeling like they have a home base will help your cat feel less nervous about exploring their world.
The most important tip? Be patient. Getting to know a shy cat takes time, but you will often find that it is well worth the effort.
Do you have a shy cat at home? How do you help them feel safe and confident? Let us know in the comments below!