Have you adopted or rescued a cat who is shy or fearful? First of all, congratulations on adopting or rescuing a pet in need! There are more than 10,000 puppies and kittens born in the United States every day—and the need for spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership is at an all-time high. Thank you for opening your home and heart to help an animal in need! All living beings want to survive and thrive. We’re all the same. We all need adequate food, water, shelter—and of course love.
Whether your new cat is a kitten, young adult or senior cat, it is important to help him/her adjust happily to your home. The most important thing to note: THIS TAKES TIME and PATIENCE!
If your cat is fearful of men or of new people, please be aware that you don’t know what their pasts hold. It would be wonderful if pets could talk and tell us their histories- but they can’t. So we have to use their cues to help them adjust and move forward in life. Cats naturally live in the moment, but sometimes when they have endured significant neglect/abuse- it takes a caring home environment to move forward. Again, with time, patience and love- you can make a huge difference in a cat’s life. Depending on their past and their personality—every cat is different and unique- just like humans are!- the time length it can take to adjust and become social can greatly vary. Don’t make the mistake of giving your cat a set time limit to become “social”—this could take 1 week or 1 year—or longer. It just depends on the cat, their history and your home environment—and your patience.
Again, pick up on your cat’s cues- every shy/fearful cat will be different, depending on their past.
Next, is your cat food motivated (treats) or affection motivated? Almost always, cats will be motivated by one of these two ways more than the other. Decipher which motivates your cat the most.
Now onto the training….If your cat seems nervous when new people enter your home, if he/she is treat motivated, keep a baggie of his/her favorite treats with you at all times. When someone new enters the home and your cat acts appropriately, feed them a treat as a reward (or give affection)— the important aspect is to reward the behavior that you wish to see from your cat. Do not yell, shout or become frustrated with your cat if they do not behave exactly as you would like. Training takes time!
Positive reinforcement is the key— and again, PATIENCE!
If you want your cat to be a “lap cat” and he/she has not jumped up into your lap and started to purr….take a deep breath…it’s okay! Give it time. Not all cats are lap cats- but most, given time, will come around. Some cats prefer a calm environment, some cats prefer to be the ONLY cat in the home, some cats prefer to have another cat pal in their home…every cat is different— just like we (humans) are different in our social needs/desires. Patience, patience, patience— and of course, kindness will always win!
Of course, always exercise common sense. And speaking of exercise—daily exercise of a minimum of 15 minutes is very helpful to all cats—especially those who are anxious. Exercise helps to ease anxiety—for humans too! Cats, unlike dogs, are not going to “go for a walk” but you can play with them, dragging around a favorite toy or just sitting on the ground and petting them, at their level. The important thing here is spending that one-on-one time—that attention that they crave—even if they seem nervous/shy—just do a few minutes every day so your cat can learn that you are a positive source of energy and you are safe. They need to learn that they can trust you before they’ll come around to being that “lap kitty”. Give it time, stay calm and praise what they do right!