The Hervey Foundation for Cats
How to Help Your Shy Cat Feel More Confident

How to Help Your Shy Cat Feel More Confident

Cat personalities come in all shapes and sizes. Some have big personalities and love interacting with people, while some have very shy, timid personalities, preferring to spend time alone. While genetics plays a major role in the personality of your cat and how they behave, there are some other factors as well. 


Environment can have a huge impact on a cat’s behaviour. Cats are highly sensitive animals. They can see, smell, and hear things better than us. With that in mind, consider your home and how an animal with such strong sensory receptors might fair living there. Is it loud? Messy? Chaotic?

For cats who seem shy, timid, or even scared, there is a high possibility they might not actually want to be that way! Some might be holding back their true personalities because they are scared or overwhelmed. As their owner, you control their environment and there are things you can do to encourage them to come out to play, to keep them stimulated, and to make them feel excited about life! 

Suggestions for Helping a Shy Cat

If you have a cat at home that spends a lot of time hidden under a bed, in a specific room, or anywhere they can find quiet, try some of the following steps to improve their situation.

  • Create a Peaceful Environment
    • Cats need peaceful places. There is no other way. Chaos is very difficult for cats to process and understand. Their extreme hearing ability makes it hard to be around lots of noise, creating stress, and making them feel defensive or as if they want to escape. The banging of lots of feet on a hardwood floor can also stress a cat out, as they feel and hear the reverberations. Think about your home and where you might be able to make a safe, quiet space for your kitty.
  • Spend Time in Their Room
    • A cat who spends a lot of time in one specific room is a cat that either feels comfortable there or is afraid of everywhere else. If your cat seems stressed out when not in that room, try to spend some time in there with them. This is a great place to start when trying to encourage a shy cat to come out into the rest of the house. Let them get comfortable around you in their own space, then encourage them to get comfortable in other spaces.
  • Lure Them Out with Treats
    • Animals are intelligent creatures, but like most languageless, living beings, they are very food motivated. A shy cat will likely come out when offered a few delicious treats, and while they are distracted and eating, you can offer them some gentle pets and use a soothing voice to let them know they are safe and in good hands!
  • Give Slow Blinks
    • Happy cats like to squint and blink their eyes slowly. The happier the cat, the more likely it is they have slowed things down enough to feel a little tired and very squinty. Cats find it easier to trust people who move slowly and exhibit lots of calm. If you are able to get nice and relaxed, throw a few gentle blinks towards your feline to help strengthen that bond. 
  • Create Vertical Space for Them
    • Cats like to be able to work the room. In a home without any reachable high places, you might notice your cats spending a lot of time on the top of the couch. Cats like to explore places both up high and down low, but when they’re unable to get up high, they might feel stressed out. This is because cats find it very important to be able to keep an eye on things within their territory and a birds-eye view is the best way to do this. It’s baked right into their DNA to try and get up as high as they safely can, so try to provide some places for them to go.
  • Play with Them
    • Playing with your cat is one of the most important elements to raising a healthy and happy cat. Play creates mental stimulation, physical exercise, and it strengthens the bond you have with them. It’s a win-win-win situation. Shy and timid cats might start to feel a little more confident after you start to regularly interact and play with them, and once they get to know and trust you better, you will get more chances to get to know them!
  • Let Them Come to You
    • No matter what you do, don’t force a shy or timid cat out of their safe space. Cats are both prey and predators, and that means they have a very strong fight or flight response. In situations where they feel threatened and unable to escape, they will fight. Cats will usually try to escape a threat first, but, for example, if they are hiding under a bed and you reach under to pull them out, the results will likely not be very positive.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, cats just want to be loved. Some have experienced terrible, complex traumas and may be more inclined to want to hide and feel safe instead of meeting new people and socializing. 

With a rescue cat, sometimes you just don’t know what their previous life was like, and the best solution in those cases is love and time. Show your cats unconditional love, try to interact with them, give them space when they need it, but also recognize when that space has turned into a symptom of a larger issue. Sometimes it might take more time than you expect to bring a shy or timid cat around, but the end result is always worth the wait.

The Hervey Foundation for Cats is a cat rescue located in Alberta, Canada.


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