Is your kitten scared of you or runs away at the sight of others? Does his fear get in the way of daily activities?
If your cat is fearful, it can be an indication of poor socialization. That is; he had poor or zero experience with humans early in his life. Thankfully, however, this behavior can be trained out and your kitten’s confidence restored or built up. All it requires is time, patience and some skills. Below are some effective ways you can help build your cat’s trust and confidence in you.
Create a Cat Room
While dogs may have no problem exploring a huge and full house, it may be too much for a cat. So, what you can do to help in this situation is to narrow your cat’s movement range temporarily. Felines are territorial animals and so having to “manage” a large space can be daunting for them.
By creating a room just for your cat, you provide the safe haven your cat needs and this becomes a place of comfort. The room should contain everything your cat needs including water, food, toys, a litter box, a bed, and if possible, a cat tree. And while it shouldn’t necessarily be off-limits to people, it would create a sense of privacy and a sense of “control” in your feline.
You should also consider keeping the door closed until your feline becomes familiar with the environment. After this, you can leave the door open to let him explore the rest of the house whenever he wants. To hasten this process or cause your cat to explore more areas often, you can leave a plate of treats in adjourning rooms or spots and keep all hiding areas closed.
Spend Time in Your Feline’s Room
Even though your cat needs a space to himself, you still need to visit him regularly in that space. Spend time with him but ensure you’re not doing it a disturbing way. You can visit the room, attempt playing a little with him, and then spend the rest of the time reading a book or a newspaper with him near you.
Ensure the sessions are short at first but done more than once a day. Then, increase the length of each stay as you reduce the frequency of the visits.
Check for hiding spots in the room and reduce them. Check areas like the closet, behind the couch, and under the bed. Make as many of them inaccessible and if possible, remove the furniture from the room leaving only the cat tree if your cat has one and some open boxes.
These hiding spaces are necessary to provide an additional feeling of privacy and so your cat can dash to the nearest one when you or any other person he’s afraid of enters the room.
Create a Calm Environment
Cats are naturally cautious and careful animals. They take time to get accustomed to things and people before letting themselves grow comfortable. With shy, fearful or timid cats, this often requires more time. However, there are things you can do to aid this process.
Provide a cat tree, tunnel, or an area they can go to and feel safe when required. You can also make your home more inviting with things like feline pheromone spray and catnip – all of which are effective at calming cats.
Also, while you want to create a calm environment, you also want to act normal around your cat and keep the home as calm as possible. Being extraordinarily careful around your cat will not work for either you or the cat. Act normal, but don’t yell at it or lose your temper.
Avoid startling it if you can and if you have other felines in the home, understand that other cats may target the fearful one. Try as much as possible to protect it even as you work towards training out his timidity.
Talk to the Cat
Like you would with a human child; talk to your kitten and do so in a clear casual voice. Call out his name when you enter his room, call him when you talk to him and reassure him with rubs and your words of how important he is to you. You can even start a conversation with him on just about anything.
Encourage Playful Activities
When you visit the cat in his room or he goes outside his room, start fun activities. You can start by dragging a toy on the floor and acting like you were playing by yourself. If your kitten is already starting to warm up to you, he should be inclined to join in the play or at least watch with interest. But if he is still scared of you, he will keep a distance until you ask him to join in the play.
Don’t force him to play if he refuses to join in after you invite him. Don’t push or yell at him to go after the toy. You’ll only end up frightening him.
This works on felines just like it does on canines. Reward your pet with treats and toys to lessen his fear of you. If your cat is too timid to accept treats or toys from you, place it near him and step away. And each time, move closer slowly and stay longer to talk with him in a soft tone.
If your cat only gets frightened when a stranger visits, you can get it to overcome that fear by giving it treats or toys so they understand it’s alright for the person to be visiting.
You should also let in understanding family and friends on your cat’s situation, especially if they visit regularly.
Get Him to Eat in Your Presence
When you feed your cat and he reaches for the meal as soon as you set it, you should stick around a bit. You can stay in a corner of the room and watch him eat and if you have the time, wait till he finishes the meal. However, if you notice that he is still not brave enough to eat while you’re there, you should leave and try again when he eats.
Be Gradual with Your Approach
A timid or shy cat will not change overnight, so don’t try to rush things or you’ll push him further into his “shell”. Don’t rush him or force him to do things he’s naturally not comfortable doing. For example, you shouldn’t try to startle him unnecessarily to get to “stop being so fearful”. If you do, you’ll only end up reinforcing his fear of you.
Finally, understand that while the tips above are effective for both older cats and kittens, it would take more time and effort to achieve any worthwhile result with an older cat.