As big and handsome as he is, Cinco is a very shy cat. I’ve had him since he was 16 weeks old (born in January 2006) and almost no one has ever met him in person. My in-laws always tease that they don’t believe he really exists. Cinco runs and hides every time he suspects that someone, other than my husband or I, is going to come through the door. Many times he will even growl and become anxious when he sees people outside through the window.
Behind closed doors, Cinco is as loving and fun as any other kitty. He has been very attached to me since the day we brought him home. It is pretty rare that he isn’t sitting in my lap or snuggled up next to me. This shy cat actually has a lot of personality. He absolutely loves to play games where he gets to interact with me. Sometimes he will tell me he wants to play by rolling over near a toy on the floor. Other times he will he will bat at my legs as I walk and/or start giving me that high pitched meow of his.
Causes of Shyness in Cats
If you have a shy cat, don’t feel that you’ve done anything wrong. Cats are born with their own unique personalities, just like us humans. A cat’s personality can range from being so shy that they don’t come out to see anyone (including you) to being a total social butterfly.
It is really hard to tell which cat will have which personality until you’ve had them in your home for a month or two. Sometimes a cat will be very shy at first but become increasingly more social as they accept their new environment. Cats are very territorial animals and they need some time before they can really feel like your home is their territory.
A cat may be shy because it had a traumatic moment somewhere in its past. Someone or something may have scared the cat (intentionally or not) and given it a reason to be afraid. It isn’t hard to imagine why a cat that has come from an abusive situation would be a shy cat. However, the fear doesn’t need to come from such an obvious source. Perhaps the cat was exposed to a child who wasn’t very gentle or made loud noises. Sudden loud noises can be traumatizing for a cat.
If your cat shyness concerns you or if it comes on suddenly, be sure to talk to your veterinarian. Medical problems can cause a cat to seem shy. Who wants to be bothered when they don’t feel well?
How to Ease Your Shy Cat’s Anxiety
There are no guaranteed ways to turn a shy cat into a social butterfly. Some cats, like Cinco, just have a shy personality. However, with patience and love you can help your shy cat to overcome some of its fears.
Let places, objects and people become familiar.
This takes a lot of patience, but it works wonders. I use this method with Cinco.
If your cat is in a new place, just let them do what they feel they need to do for a couple of weeks and don’t bother them. You can say hi to them and pet them as they allow, but let them hide if they must. Eventually, the new space will feel a little more like home and the cat will come out of hiding.
- If you have new “scary” objects in your home, allow the cat time to investigate them. Cats will react to things that are unfamiliar to them and don’t smell like the rest of their territory. Demonstrate that the object is not harmful by interacting with it when the cat can see you. Don’t force the cat to interact with it.
- New people can be tough on a shy kitty. Repeated exposure to a person helps a ton. If your shy cat is still a kitten, be sure to expose them to as many people as possible (one at a time). Even Cinco will become less shy towards a person he sees often – especially if that person’s coming and going is predictable. There was a point in time when my Dad would come over every morning to use my computer and after a few weeks, Cinco came out and visited him.
Avoid Anxiety Producing Situations
Try to create the most peaceful living situation you can for your shy cat. If you can, avoid putting your cat in situations that cause your cat anxiety. Don’t force the cat to come out and socialize with people if he/she isn’t ready yet and don’t expose them in their hiding place. If you are going to have a party in your home, place the cat in a room with a closed door for the duration of the party and don’t let any of your guests in that room.
Involve Your Veterinarian
It is really important to make sure that any concerning behavior is not being caused by a medical problem. Clearing up an illness may be all it takes to bring your shy cat out of hiding. If there is no sign of illness, you may want to see which pharmaceutical and/or holistic anti-anxiety aids are appropriate for your situation. Sometimes these products can ease a kitty’s mind just enough for them to open up to you.