Helping a shy kitty blossom takes time and patience—but it’s also incredibly rewarding! From first purr to first headbutt, there will be many milestones to celebrate. As you teach your new feline friend to relax and trust humans, you will gain her devotion and loyalty for life. Here are some tips for socializing a shy cat:
Confinement is Key
Think about it from the kitty’s perspective: anxious cats worry there’s danger lurking in every unfamiliar space. Giving them room to roam around your home only adds to their stress. You’ll also be able to interact more calmly with your kitty if she’s in a smaller, quiet space. (Chasing kitty through the house or dragging her out from behind furniture sure doesn’t help build trust!) For more information on confinement, see “Why to Confine Your New Kitty.”
Arrange the Space
For young kittens, a large dog crate or playpen in a quiet room can give them a safely limited space to explore. For bigger felines, a small room such as a bathroom usually works best. Kitty will appreciate having a secure place such as a crate to retreat to, but make sure the room doesn’t have any hiding spots you can’t access. Think carefully about litter box placement, too—a frightened kitty may not feel brave enough to venture across the room to find the box. When you’re socializing a shy cat, creating a safe, comfortable living space sets you up for success!
Pet the Kitty
A hand coming towards your cat’s face may look threatening, and head-to-tail pets can be over stimulating. Instead, slowly approach from an angle and gently pet the side of her face. If your kitty isn’t ready to be touched yet, or if she swats away your hand, you can try petting from a distance with a backscratcher or a feather.
Make a “Purrito”
This is a great trick for getting young, shy kittens to relax! To make a purrito, swaddle the kitten in a towel with only the head showing. Then you can gently hold the kitty in your arms and pet the side of her face.
Tempt with Treats
Wet food on a spoon works wonders for luring shy cats out of hiding. Once you figure out kitty’s favorite treat, you’re on the road to becoming BFFs. For cats with a strong drive to play, using a wand or other toy to interact can help them feel at ease, too.
Socializing a shy cat works best when you let the cat set the pace. Too much attention, too fast could backfire and make kitty even more nervous. For example, if kitty comes over for pets, stick to gentle reassuring movements. (Don’t skip ahead and scoop her up in your arms just yet!) Each small step is worth celebrating, and with time you’ll establish the loving human-animal bond you’re hoping for.