9 Tips for Socializing a Shy Cat

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Whether you have a traumatized adult cat or have rescued a feral cat, here are some ways to help a shy cat come out of its shell.

A scared cat or kitten hiding under a chair or table. Photography ©lopurice | iStock / Getty Images Plus.


Have you ever had a similar experience? You’re excited about your new cat and want to give it a warm home, a loving forever home. But as soon as you open the cat carrier, she breaks out. For days you find no trace of her – maybe the food is missing from the litter box, or there is cat urine in the litter box. Or you start looking under the furniture, and in the farthest, darkest corner under the couch, you see a pair of frightened, golden-green eyes staring at you. You, my friend, have just adopted a shy cat. But don’t worry: you can help your new friend overcome his fear of cats and come out of his inner circle. It just takes some time and patience. Here are some tips that will help you and your shy cat.

1. Understand that it is neither your fault nor theirs.

Shy cat peeking out of a cardboard box. Photography ©kmsh/Thinkstock.

You brought this cat into your life with the best of intentions, and there’s a 99 percent chance that what you did wasn’t the cause of her reaction. Your shy cat may have been traumatized or never had the opportunity to be properly socialized.

2: Patience and empathy are key to helping a shy cat.

Trying in vain to help your shy cat can be frustrating. You may even think about taking her back to the shelter, but don’t give up. You may have been in a situation yourself where you were scared or traumatized: Think back to that time and consider what might have helped you cope. Your empathy may also be an inspiration to your shy cat.

3. Start with a small space

When you bring your cat home, you will hopefully place him in a small room – a guest room, bathroom, or similar – and have bedding, food, water, a litter box, and toys ready for him. If you can first familiarize your shy cat with the small space, she will adjust better.

4. Stay calm

To you, a soccer game, a party, or a new “kill and be killed” video game are all fun noises. To cats, not so much. Not only do cats have very sensitive hearing, but loud noises can scare shy cats.

5.Talk to a shy cat in a soothing voice.

Speak softly, tell your cat what you want to do, and always call him by his name. Imagine you are talking to a baby who needs to be comforted. Maybe you can even sing him a lullaby.

6: Food is a great way to make friends and influence shy cats.

Even the shyest cats can be persuaded by a treat. I once coaxed a scared cat out from under the sofa with a can of tuna cat food.

7.Allow shy cats to approach you.

When a shy cat pokes its head out of its hiding place, don’t touch it right away. Keep your hand relaxed, palm down, and let them decide how close they want to get to you.

8. Use calming pheromones

Calming pheromones for cats are synthetic analogs of the “happy cat” pheromone that cats leave behind when they rub their cheeks against you or furniture. Plug in a few pheromone diffusers and let them help you calm your shy cat.

9. Maintain a positive attitude

If your shy cat reacts to something you do, don’t stop interacting with it. Instead, end the interaction with something you and your cat enjoyed together before.

Want to learn more about this? The Best Friends Animal Society has created a guide to socializing shy or fearful cats. It includes step-by-step instructions from the organization’s kitty socialization staff at its world-renowned sanctuaries, as well as documentation you can use to track your cat’s progress.

Tell us: have you ever successfully socialized a shy cat? Do you have other tips and tricks? Please share them with us in the comments.

Preview image: photography ©lopurice | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

author : By JaneA Kelley

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