If you’re wondering why your cat is shy around strangers, or are worried about helping a scared cat adjust to their new surroundings, our guide might just help. Shyness can be shown in many ways – from a cat hiding to freezing in place or even appearing skittish. So if you’ve created a safe and loving home environment, why is your cat fearful and what can you do to help your shy cat relax?
Like humans, a cat’s behaviour and character are shaped partly by its experiences as a kitten. These experiences create your cat’s personality and most adult cats appear confident enough to face most situations. If your cat hasn’t been exposed to a full range of experiences (from unfamiliar sounds to a wide range of people), the likelihood of it being scared of these experiences will increase.
Timid behaviour could be caused by:
Genetics - some cats are naturally more cautious than others.
Lack of socialisation - if cats do not socialise with humans, particularly during their first eight weeks of life, they may be stressed or frightened by human contact.
Bad experiences - if your cat has been harmed or scared in the past, they may be more wary of people.
Signs that your cat is scared include:
Does your cat recoil from your touch or spend most of the day hiding behind the sofa? There are many reasons why your cat might be shy, nervous or timid, but you can often help your cat to unwind by being patient, calm and sensitive to their needs.
Most importantly, never lose your temper or force your cat to interact when they're not ready. By taking your time and gradually earning their trust, your cat will be much happier.
You can help your cat to feel safe and secure by:
Your cat should gradually relax as it learns that you do not present a threat. As your cat becomes braver you can try:
Any change in your cat’s behaviour shouldn’t be ignored – there could be a multitude of reasons why your cat now appears to be scared. Before you do anything, contact your vet for a thorough check to ensure your cat is not in pain or has an illness. If needed, your vet will be able to refer you to a behaviour specialist who will be able to advise further.
While it isn’t possible to guarantee how your kitten’s personality will develop, you can limit the risk with our guidelines on choosing a kitten. ‘Socialising’ a kitten happens between two and nine weeks old and helps to prepare them to cope with the world while their brain is still developing, so you’ll need to make sure that the breeder you’re purchasing your cat from is aware of this.