Many cats are shy or fearful of new people, but warm up into lovely companions once they have decided the new people are not dangerous. It can be very difficult to meet these cats and establish a bond, but it is not impossible.
Inspired by some of Black Cat Rescue’s shy kitties, we’ve pulled together a few tips to help you when meeting new cats who may by shy. These can come in handy when meeting a new cat that you are considering taking into your home or visiting a home with a shy cat.
1. Do not make direct eye contact. Cats take direct eye contact as a threat when meeting new people. It is very intimidating and a cat that is already nervous will often flee instead of sticking around to find out if you’re friendly. Watch the cat out of the corner of your eye, but don’t stare directly at them. You will often see cats doing this to new people or items in their space, so take your cue from them!
2. Do not approach the cat right away. Cats are very territorial animals. They are not very concerned with a social hierarchy among animals, but they are very concerned with their territory and any new animals, people, or objects entering their space. You are less of a threat if you act casually and pretend to ignore the cat instead of walking directly up to them. Let the cat scope you out from a distance to decide you aren’t a threat.
3. If you are approaching, do it from the side. If making direct eye contact is a threat, you can bet that walking straight up to a cat is also perceived as a threat. If you are approaching a new cat, edge up to them on a diagonal instead of straight on while watching them out of the corner of your eye.
4. Let the cat come to you. We suggest acting casually and letting the cat decide when to initiate contact. By letting the cat take the initiative, you are lessening stress on the cat and creating a good base for the cat to trust you.
5. If the cat gets very nervous or uncomfortable, freeze! It’s much easier to establish trust and space from the beginning instead of scaring the cat and having to earn that trust back. If you notice the cat stiffening up or becoming agitated during your approach, stop whatever you’re doing. When the cat has become receptive again, try your approach more slowly or gently this time.
6. When you pet the cat, start with the shoulders or back, not the head. A giant unknown hand coming straight for a cat’s head can be very scary. Put yourself in the cat’s shoes (or paws) and slowly move from the side up to the cat’s shoulders or back for those first few touches. If that is welcomed, you can then proceed to gently pet the cat’s head.
7. Don’t give up! Cats have very short attention spans and will often seem interested one second and bored the next. If the cat walks away, just wait and they will probably come back soon. Most cats are curious by nature and they can’t help themselves from checking out the situation, even if it’s from afar for a little while.
We hope these tips help you to meet some shy kitties and create a lasting bond. This post was inspired by our very own Siren. Siren is a gorgeous cat and a complete cuddlebug, but she’s had some trouble meeting potential adopters in her foster home. Maybe with these new tips, a potential adopter will be able to win her heart!
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