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How To Make a Shy Cat Confident

Gray and white fluffy cat with scared yellow and green eyes hiding under colorful mat

Not all cats are gung-ho to meeting new people or being put in the spotlight. Some reserved felines prefer to stay in a quiet environment, away from people. This may be because they lack confidence. Learning how to make a shy cat more confident can make a big difference for your best pal.

Why Is My Cat Scared of Everything?

Whether you have a young kitten you recently adopted or an older cat you’ve had for years, it’s possible that your cat could be lacking confidence. Without confidence, your cat could appear to be timid, nervous, or even aggressive at times—though this could be a sign of fear.

When you have guests over, pay attention to how your cat acts. If they approach and spend time around your visitors, it’s safe to assume that your feline friend feels confident and comfortable around them. On the other hand, if the second someone walks into your home, your cat takes off in the other direction and stays hidden the entire time, that could be a good indicator that they are anxious around others.

Besides your guests, it’s also possible that your cat could feel timid around your family or roommates who also live in your home, your other pets, or even certain inanimate objects like the vacuum cleaner.

Although it isn’t always the case, there are many instances when a rescued cat could have more fears and lack any type of confidence. Your adopted cat could be coming from an unideal living situation, plus they are often stressed and unsure of their surroundings after staying in a shelter. In other words, it isn’t entirely unusual for pets to even feel anxious around their new parents until they become more acquainted with one another.

There are many reasons why a cat could lack confidence. An ideal place to start is to better understand what goes on in a cat’s mind.

  • Lack of socialization. Cats need to be socialized beginning from a young age. Exposing your feline friend to new people, objects, sounds, and other animals can be a wonderful way to show them they have nothing to fear in new situations. If your pal didn’t receive enough socialization when they were younger, it’s possible that they now feel overwhelmed when things aren’t following routine.
  • Uncomfortable in chaos. If you live a very busy life, constantly have company over, and have many kids or pets, your household may be loud and chaotic. For some felines, this overstimulation may cause them to become more reserved and constantly retreat to a quiet place in the home.
  • Personality. Just as all people are unique and have individual personalities, the same is true for cats. Some felines may naturally be more introverted and can become nervous and shy more quickly.
  • Genetics. Similar to their personality, how a cat acts can also be rooted in their lineage. For instance, there are some cat breeds that prefer to spend all day, every day, receiving attention from anyone that will give it to them. In contrast, other cat breeds are more independent and prefer to spend their time alone, only making an appearance when they need a good cuddle session or chin scratch.
  • Underlying illness. You may notice that every time you go to pick up your cat, they run away. Though this could be because they don’t want to be around people, there could also be an underlying health-related issue. If your feline friend isn’t feeling well or something is causing them pain, they could retreat more from people.

Though, at times, it may feel as though your cat is afraid of everything, it can be helpful to understand exactly why your pal may not be comfortable in a situation and what you can do to help them feel more confident.

People can feel embarrassed in social settings whenever they do something goofy around others, but can pets feel embarrassed?

tabby cat peering out from behind a cat tower

How To Make a Timid Cat More Confident

In the process of learning how to make a cat less nervous, one of the most crucial items to keep in mind is patience. Building your cat’s confidence back up can be a slow and steady process that includes moving at your best pal’s pace.

It’s essential that you never force your cat into a situation where they don’t feel comfortable. This could make your cat’s issues worse and take even more time to help them properly. Instead, there are many cat-friendly, less-stressful ways to help your pet gain back their confidence.

Make a Safe Space

This should be a space in your home that your cat is already familiar with and feels comfortable. This room or area should be kept calm, quiet, and remain accessible for your cat at all times. Some recommended items for your cat’s little retreat can include food, water, toys, a litter box, a scratching post, and a climbing tower.

In order to respect your cat’s space, it’s best not to allow guests into your cat’s area. This allows your feline friend to know that they can remain comfortable in their safe space.

Besides offering your feline friend a completely separate area, you can also help them feel comfortable in nearly any other room in your home by providing vertical space and an escape route. Many cats will feel braver and be more apt to explore a situation if they can observe from above. These spots may include a tall cat tower or perhaps a large piece of furniture. Just be sure that whatever it is your cat may climb, it is still safe for them. Remember, cats don’t always land on their feet.

Having an exit strategy from a room can also make all the difference in helping your cat feel more comfortable and confident. You can help provide this by keeping doorways clear, decluttering walkways in your home, leaving easy access to your cat’s climbing tower, and not fully shutting the door when your cat is in the room.

Whenever you are setting up the designated “cat space,” be sure to remove any plants that could be harmful to your cat if ingested. After all, did you know that there are over two dozen common house plants that are toxic to cats?

Let Your Cat Make the First Move

Whether you are introducing your pal to new people or a new pet in the house, it is best to allow your cat to make the first move. Have your guests go about their business, letting your cat observe them from a distance, and then approach the visitors whenever they feel more comfortable.

Don’t become discouraged if your cat goes through an entire evening and doesn’t allow anyone to pet them. Continue to invite your friends and family over, explaining what they can do to help your feline friend. By continuing this routine, over time, your cat will learn that these familiar people are safe to be around, and your cat’s confidence will begin to build back up.

Use Toys or Treats

Learning how to help a nervous cat can be such a rewarding process whenever you begin to see results. All of the hard work and persistence will be worth it whenever you see your cat confidently approach new house visitors and not run and hide whenever the vacuum cleaner comes out of the closet.

An excellent way to reward your cat throughout their confidence-building journey is to give them their favorite treat or toy. For instance, if your cat is hesitant around guests, have your guests keep a handful of cat treats on hand. Anytime your cat approaches, your guests can toss a treat towards your pal, showing them that guests aren’t scary. In fact, they can be a source of delicious treats.

Some cats may feel more motivated by their toys instead of food. If this is the case, try having guests play with your cat or toss them a favorite toy, allowing the cat to associate the guest with a positive thing. You may also find it helpful to use a toy such as a teaser wand since it gives your cat the opportunity to keep some distance between themselves and the visitor. This can be a wonderful first step in showing your cat how new people can be trusted.

Beginning socialization from a young age can help your cat grow up more confidently. However, it’s never too late to teach an old cat new tricks.

Learning how to build cat confidence can feel like a long and slow process, and at times it may be. Socializing your cat is an ongoing and life-long journey, but it can be a great opportunity for you and your cat to strengthen your relationship.

Remember to stay positive, calm, and patient throughout the journey of boosting your cat’s confidence. Progress is made by staying consistent over a long period, plus many cats appreciate a sense of routine. If at times you feel as though you aren’t making much progress, try a different confidence-building technique, talk with your veterinarian for advice, and look back to where you started with your cat. In only a few short months, your best feline friend can make leaps and bounds towards being one confident cat.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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