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If your cat has suddenly become shy, read on to find out the underlying cause and what you can do to bring them out of their shell again.

Even if you have a confident cat who loves to weave around your legs and sit on you at the most inconvenient times, they may still appear nervous from time to time.

Cats don’t always make it obvious why they’ve suddenly become shy or withdrawn, but there will usually be a reason, even if it’s a subtle one.

Once you know the cause of their change in behaviour, it’s much easier to fix the problem and get your cat back to being their usual confident and happy self.

Here are some of the most common reasons your cat may have suddenly become shy…

They could be in pain 

tabby cat peeping over a table top

If your cat has become injured or ill, it might not always be easy to tell. Unfortunately they can’t tell you they’re in pain so they may simply hide away and avoid any human contact. This is a behaviour retained from their ancestor, the African wildcat.

In the wild, these cats would have hid away when they were sick or injured as it would make them less vulnerable to predators when they were not as quick at running away. Although your cat doesn’t have any predators in the home, they may still prefer to hide.

If your cat does show a sudden change in behaviour, it’s always a good idea to take them to the vet to get them checked over, just in case there’s a medical problem that needs attention. 

They could be frightened

black tortoiseshell cat behind door curtain

This may sound obvious, but sometimes you may not be aware of what has frightened your cat and so their change in behaviour can seem completely random.

Think carefully about whether something could have recently scared them; perhaps a neighbour’s cat may have chased them off, or a loud noise such as drilling or fireworks could have startled them. It could even be that you may have lost your temper and shouted at them for scratching the carpet.

All of these scenarios could cause your cat stress, so it’s best if they can be avoided. If they cannot be avoided, such as fireworks and home improvements, then click the links for advice on how to keep your cat as calm as possible.

They could be struggling with change 

ginger cat curiously looking up

Cats are creatures of habit, so a change in their routine or home environment can cause them to feel nervous and shy away. If you’ve recently had a new baby, got a new cat or other pet, moved home or redecorated, your cat may be feeling unsettled.

The best way to reduce their stress is to make the change as gradual as possible so that your cat is prepared. Click on the links to discover lots of useful advice on how to introduce your cat to these changes.

They could have learnt to avoid something or someone 

light tortie cat in pink bedding

If your cat has suddenly started avoiding a particular person or room, it could be that they now associate that person or room with something negative.

Perhaps that person keeps touching their tummy when they don’t want them to, or maybe every time they go into that room there’s a loud noise (eg from the washing machine).

Removing these stressors, for example by asking that person not to touch your cat’s tummy or closing off that room when the washing machine is on, will hopefully remove those associations for your cat so that they have no need to feel scared and nervous.

For more help and advice on caring for a shy cat, visit

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