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Shy Cat? Tips to Help Your Shy Kitty Relax in Social Situations

25 Nov 2022.

Perhaps you’ve just rescued a traumatised kitty or simply noticed that your cat is shy in social situations. Cats can communicate with humans through their meows and facial expressions, but a fur friend’s absence can speak volumes too. Do you have a shy cat and aren’t sure what to do? Read on for Cat in a Flat’s top tips to help your shy cat overcome their social anxiety. 

Why is my cat shy? 

Just like you, your kitty’s behaviour and character are partly shaped by early life events. Hence, a feline can develop a confident nature or a fearful one depending on their experiences as a kitten. No matter the reason for your cat’s shy nature, remember that it’s not their fault, nor is it yours. You brought your kitty into your life to give them a good home and there can be many reasons why your cat may be shy. 

  • Genetics: Some cat breeds are more genetically inclined to be cautious while others are bred to be outgoing. For example, a Bengal cat is naturally inclined to enjoy attention—whether it be from you or complete strangers. However, Ragdoll cats are calmer and prefer hanging out with just their owners. 
  • Negative experiences: It’s possible your shy cat has been harmed or scared in the past and subsequently developed a timid personality as a result. 
  • Lack of exposure: If cats don’t socialise enough with humans during their early kitten stage, they may develop a fear of people. Not having exposure to a wide variety of experiences in kittenhood can also lead to a shy cat who is easily frightened of unfamiliar sounds, humans, and animals. 

What to do if my cat is scared

Patience is key when dealing with a shy cat. Here are a few ways your kitty may show fear.

Your cat is always hiding

Hiding is a way for shy cats to feel safe and cope with anxiety or fear. If your fur friend spends most of the day beneath the sofa or in the closet, don’t worry. This is normal behaviour for a shy cat. Respect your kitty’s boundaries and don’t seek them out when they hide. Similarly, if you have visitors make sure they know not to seek out your cat too, as this will only make Mr Whiskers feel more insecure and frightened. 

Cats often feel most comfortable on high perches from where they can safely observe their surroundings. One way to help your shy cat is by providing plenty of vertical spaces and high resting spots for them to retreat to when they feel worried or scared. One of these top-rated scratching trees are a great place to start! 

Physical signs of a scared cat

Our kitties communicate in different ways, and you can usually identify a scared or shy cat by their body language. These physical signs of fear can include dilated pupils, ears flattened against skull, and recoiling, cringing, or cowering from your or other’s touch. If you notice these signs, give your cat space, and don’t force them to interact if they don’t want to. This way, you’ll gradually earn Mr Whiskers’ trust, and over time your shy cat will feel more comfortable around you. 

be patient with your shy cat

How do I help my shy cat? 

Here are some ways to help your shy cat feel safe and secure

  • Start in a small room with plenty of hiding places. If you’re bringing a timid kitty into your home for the first time, keep in mind they might feel overwhelmed by this new place. Start by only giving your feline access to a small space—preferably a guest bedroom or bathroom. Stock the room with bedding, food, water, litter boxes, and toys. And make sure your kitty has access to lots of places to hide if they feel frightened. 
  • Keep it quiet. Felines have very sensitive hearing and loud and unfamiliar noises can be especially terrifying to a shy cat. Keep your home quiet. Don’t play loud music or turn up the volume on the TV. And make sure you keep the pitch and volume of your voice low too. Talk to your fur friend in a calm voice and use his or her name often. This will help soothe your shy cat and make them feel comforted. 
  • Allow your shy cat to approach you. A golden rule of interacting with a shy or timid feline is to never approach them. Instead, let your kitty decide when they’d like to approach you. Sit quietly near your fur friend and read a book or take a nap. This will give Mr Whiskers the freedom to approach you when they’re comfortable. And if your kitty pokes their head out of their hiding spot, don’t rush to pet them. Hold your hand out, palm down, and let them decide if they’d like to come to you. 
  • Use food to create a pawsitive experience. The best way to your fur friend’s heart is through their stomach! If your shy cat approaches you, reward them with a treat so that they see the interaction as a positive experience. 
  • Use a calming pheromone. When cats rub their heads against the furniture (or you), they leave behind a scent that indicates they’re feeling happy and relaxed. A synthetic calming pheromone like Feliway replicates this scent and helps reduce stress in shy cats.
  • Be patient. There may be times where your kitty seems to regress into their shy behaviour. If this is the case, don’t give your shy cat up as a lost cause. Simply keep your interactions positive, continue to respect your feline’s boundaries, and reward them with treats when they approach you.  
cat suddenly shy

Why is my cat suddenly acting shy? 

Perhaps you used to be a pawparent to a fearless feline, but your kitty has suddenly become withdrawn or shy. It’s not normal for a previously confident cat to suddenly jump at every little noise. If you notice any changes in your fur friend’s behaviour, take them to the vet. Your veterinary can determine if your cat sick or injured

However, you should also look at your home life to see if there have been any changes that may be causing your cat stress. Have you moved house with your cat recently? Brought a new kitty into the home? Changed your fur friend’s cat sitter? Felines are creatures of habit and even the smallest change can at times cause a huge amount of stress. 

Always request a home visit from potential cat sitters before you book them. This will give you the chance to see how your kitty reacts to their new sitter. Contact 2-3 different pet sitters to ensure you find the absolute best cat sitting fit for both you and your furry friend! 

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