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How to Gain Your Cat’s Trust

By Stacy Painter
July 19, 2023 • 3 min. read
kitten hiding under furniture

When welcomed into a new home, it’s not uncommon for a cat to feel shy, fearful, and uncomfortable initially.

Signs of a shy or fearful cat include:

  • Hiding
  • Flattening their ears
  • Avoiding contact with people in the home
  • Refusing to eat
  • Excessive grooming or licking

It may seem concerning, but this type of behavior is normal. Animals naturally tend to be cautious in a new environment until they feel it is safe to let their guard down. With empathy and patience, you can help your kitty relax and come out of their shell.

Possible reasons a cat may seem shy

Cats are naturally cautious animals, and adjusting to a new environment can be stressful for them. Here are some common factors that may contribute to a cat’s shyness:

  1. Previous trauma or neglect: Understandably, cats that have experienced abuse, neglect, or trauma in their past may be extra cautious about accepting new humans into their life.
  2. Lack of socialization: If a cat was not properly socialized during their early developmental stages, they may have difficulty adjusting to new people, animals, or environments.
  3. Change in environment: Cats are sensitive to changes, which means they may feel fearful and anxious in new surroundings due to unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells.
  4. Individual personality: Some cats naturally have more reserved and shy personalities or may have personal preferences, such as being drawn to adults vs. children, or calmer people.

Fortunately, these obstacles can be overcome.

How to gain a cat’s trust

The number one key to gaining a cat’s trust is patience. Allowing the kitty to adjust and relax at their own pace is imperative. These are ways you can help a shy cat become confident and comfortable.

  1. Gradual introductions: Allow your cat to explore their new surroundings at their own pace. Initially, limit their access to a smaller area of your home and gradually expand it as they become more comfortable. Introduce them to different areas of the house gradually while providing plenty of hiding places and vertical spaces like cat trees or shelves for them to perch on.
  2. Create a safe and comfortable space: Set up a dedicated space for your new cat that includes a cozy bed, litter box, food, water, and toys. This space should be in a quiet area of your home, away from excessive noise or foot traffic. Provide hiding spots like a covered bed or a cardboard box to give them a sense of security.
  3. Establish a routine: Cats thrive on routine. Set a consistent schedule for feeding, playtime, and litter box cleaning. This helps create a sense of predictability and security for your cat. Stick to the same brand, type of food and litter they were accustomed to, at least initially, to maintain familiarity.
  4. Patience and positive reinforcement: Allow your cat to approach you on their terms and at their pace. Avoid forcing interactions or overwhelming them with attention. Instead, use positive reinforcement with treats, praise, and gentle petting when they show interest or approach you. This helps build trust and positive associations with human interaction.
  5. Provide enrichment and playtime: As they become more comfortable interacting with you, engage your cat in interactive play sessions using toys that simulate prey-like movements. This helps them expend energy, build confidence, and develop a bond with you. Rotate toys to keep their interest and provide scratching posts or pads to fulfill their natural instincts.

Keep in mind every cat is unique, and the adjustment period will vary. Be patient, observe their body language, and respect their boundaries. With time, love, and patience, most cats will gradually become more comfortable and confident in their new home.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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