How to Make My Cat Like Me and Be Less Scared
Got a shy cat?
Got a new cat that is scared of you?
Why are cats shy anyway?
How To Get a Shy Cat to Like You
If you have a cat that is shy or scared of either you or someone who lives in your house, there are things you can do to help them get over it.
Most scared cats are either newly arrived kittens or adult cats who are new to your house.
With patience and a little planning, you should be able to help them transition into becoming a comfortable member of your household.
You just need to make a plan and go slow. Don’t try to rush it. Let it happen.
29 Tips for How to Help a Shy Cat
If You Want to Get a Cat to Like You – Take It Slow
Go slow when socializing a shy cat. Don’t rush the process. Take your time. Be patient.
Stack Positive Experiences
The end goal is to have your kitty associate you with only positive experiences. No negative experiences with people or other animals. Every day is your opportunity to strengthen positive associations and reduce negative ones. Socializing them can be a long process that requires patience and consistency.
Kitties are Unique
Cats are all different. When your doorbell rings, some will head right to the door to see what’s going on; others will scatter away and hide under the bed. You may need to try different tactics to find what works for yours.
Keep it Predictable
Keep the important things in your cat’s life as predictable as possible. This includes feeding, litterbox, hiding spaces, visitors and where they can sleep.
Rule Out Poor Health
If a perfectly well-rounded and content kitty is suddenly fearful and shy, maybe it’s a health matter. Cats hide when they’re hurting. They don’t want to be vulnerable, so they look for privacy. If your cat has stopped being friendly, maybe make an appointment with your vet. Get injury or illness ruled out.
It’s Usually Not Your Fault
Some cats are afraid of people because of how they were treated when they were very young. They had poor human contact during the first seven weeks.
Kittens should receive careful handling. You want them to be gently pet, held and carried. We know that proper socialization can make a happy and outgoing adult.
Tips for Socializing a Shy or Fearful Cat
Stay Low When You’re Around Them
Humans look like giants to a small animal. It can be intimidating. Instead, get down to their level. Crouch down. Lay down.
Watch Your Language
Talk to them like they’re a baby. Soft and soothing talk will win them over.
Don’t Eyeball Them
Don’t just stare at their eyes. Staring is often considering a sign of aggression. Get reasonably close but face away or keep your eyes mostly looking away until they trust you.
Do the Slow Blink
Once they start to trust you, you can look at them and slowly blink at them. They will hopefully do the same back at you. It’s a thing.
No Sudden Moves or Noises
A sudden move or a loud noise can cause most kittens to shoot straight up into the air. And when they come back down they will race off. Try to limit any sudden noises or actions. Fireworks and thunder are universally disliked by the feline community.
It’s Harder for Dudes
Some kitties don’t like the male voice. It’s too low. It’s too loud. Men can be too aggressive. If a little kitten has a bad experience with one man, he or she may carry that memory with them for a long time.
Who’s a Good Boy?
Use food and feeding time as a reinforcement for good behavior. The same goes for treats and catnip. Try to feed or treat your kitty right after they have demonstrated a desired bonding behavior. Food is a great tool to influence and win over your shy cat.
What To Use as Treats
The two most common behavior treats that are easy to get are canned tuna and turkey deli meat. Two or three small pieces is the right size. Give the treat after the end of a socialization session. And make sure that the treat will be associated with the behavior.
They Love to Play
Kittens may be scared, but their curiosity and innate desire to play will generally be too powerful for them to ignore. A tantalizing feather wand can draw your kitten out and help them to associate you with a good time.
Make Some Background Noise
Playing the radio or TV can help acclimate a pet to the sounds of the world. And music or talk can help mask sudden noises that would otherwise scare them. And TV shows produced specifically for a kitty audience featuring topics like birds can even help excite and entertain them.
Make Them a Nice Hiding Place
Every animal likes to have a place where they can feel safe. Make sure yours has a nice area where they can retreat to and feel safe. It could be a cat carrier or a dog carrier, perhaps partially covered with a blanket, or a modified simple cardboard box or maybe a store-bought cat home. Make this area their special territory. Try to keep any other pets out of this space. This place allows them to feel hidden and protected.
When you get a new pet, of course you want to show it off. But if your pet is shy or skittish, you should try to limit the number of folks who want to rush up to it, touch it or pick it up. Go slow with the visitors. There will be time for that later.
Treats Can Work Wonders
Most cats will find a tasty treat to be irresistible. If you flick a little treat over to them, they will grab it, taste it and, most likely, want more. You know the process, each day when you offer your treats, you can get closer and closer. And your new pet will begin to associate those treats with you. You’re the treat person.
Don’t Be Grabby
It’s tempting to want to pick up that cute, new ball of fur you have living in your house now. But try to restrain yourself. You will have plenty of that kind of fun coming in the years ahead, but try to put it off until you are sure your kitty is ready for it.
Pay Attention to Their Body Language
You can determine how your kitty is feeling by observing his or her behavior. A happy or content cat will often be doing one of these:
- They have ears up and whiskers forward
- They are sitting or lying down, looking relaxed
- Front paws are tucked under body
- They are rubbing their head against something
- They look like they are wanting attention
- They are purring or smelling things
- They are kneading or doing relaxed grooming
More Tips for Socializing a Shy Cat
Pet Them Where They Like It
The safest places to pet them in the beginning are their cheeks and chin. They have scent glands around these areas, so your pet is marking you up with their scent at the same time. Let them rub their face against your hand or leg.
Start with just an extended finger which is less intimidating than your whole hand. Give them a chance to smell your finger first. If you think it’s okay, stroke their cheek gently. Pay attention to their mood and body language and stop if you need to.
Many cats do not want their bellies, lower backs or tails touched. And some don’t even like the back of their head pet until they are comfortable with you. So use caution and watch them when touching these areas or just simply avoid them for now.
Maybe You Can’t Even Pet Them With Your Hand Yet
If your new kitty is still afraid of your hand, you can try extending a stick, wooden spoon or back scratcher. The cat may find this less intimidating than your hand. If you wrap the end with something soft, you can initiate a little brushing of the cat’s cheek.
Let your new pet get used to you. Lie down near them. Take a nap. Read, watch TV or work on your laptop. Your cat will get used to being around you, your strange noises and your weird smells. Bore them with your inactivity. Let them come to you eventually.
When you bring kitty home, you will want to keep him or her in a small environment. A small room or a fairly big enclosed pet home with bedding, food, water, litter and a few toys will allow them to feel comfortable and safe. You can expand their environment as they get used to it.
Play On Their Level
Get down and lure your cat with a toy so it plays around you while you sit. Have it go around your feet, legs and lap. Get him used to rubbing up against you.
Pick the Right Time to Bring One Home
It’s best to put off bringing a new pet home until the timing is right for it. The right time is when you aren’t having company stay over, aren’t going away on vacation, aren’t having loud home repairs being done and you have the right amount of time to spend with your new pet.
How Can I Make My Cat Less Scared? – Be Observant
Be alert to things around your home that elicit fearful or unwanted behavior. For example, certain sounds might trigger a memory of a negative experience and cause a fearful pet to hide. Do your best to reduce those types of sounds.
Older Cats are Different
If you have brought home an older model, they are most likely used to people. You won’t need to socialize them like you would with a kitten. The biggest things you need to give them are time, calmness and consistency. Give them their space so they can learn about you and their new home.
Maybe Your Home Isn’t Right for a Shy Kitten
A shy kitten wants to be in a stable, calm, quiet and predictable surroundings. Some have trouble fitting into a home with several young kids or young adults that have a chaotic and loud lifestyle. A fearful cat may never truly relax and fit in. Not everyone’s lifestyle is a perfect match for an anxious cat.
Why Are Some Cats So Shy and Fearful Anyway?
Animals that are fearful of humans are usually that way because they haven’t been around humans much, had a bad experience with a human, were poorly socialized when they were a kitten or are just plain scared of other animals or young kids. And moving from a familiar home or shelter to a new and strange environment can be traumatizing for them.
If you have a reasonably suitable home for a new feline friend, and you’re willing to put in the work, you can do this.
Don’t try to go too fast. Don’t get discouraged if you experience a setback or two. They happen.
Just act consistently and wait for your skittish kitty to trust you. You will become the most important thing in the world to your new friend. Enjoy the responsibility.
Got any socializing tips you want to share? Let us know.