How to Coax a Cat Out of Shyness

"I'm in the same room. That's being social, right?"
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Cat personalities range from in-your-face aggressiveness to "you have a cat?” skittishness. Shyness doesn't necessarily go away by itself. You can help your scaredy cat overcome shy tendencies. Your time and understanding will be crucial to coaxing your kitty out of her shell.

Stop Trying So Hard

Shyness in a cat usually boils down to one key factor -- fear. For whatever reason, your cat is frightened and seeks refuge in a safe place like under your bed or in an empty, quiet bedroom. Don't encourage this fear by forcing your cat to spend time out in the open where she's uncomfortable. Following her around the house, picking her up and otherwise forcing her out of her safe zone will only convince her that her fear is well-placed and will make her even more skittish. Avoiding you is a likely result. You can't force her to stop being shy, skittish or afraid, so leave her be for now.

Offer a Safe Place

Before you can start coaxing your shy kitty out, she needs to feel safe. Cats like to have hiding places to retreat to and relax in, so let your shy girl have a few secluded spots where she can get to easily during times of stress. These safe havens are usually dark or high locations, where she feels safest and protected. Offer a tall cat tree, a space behind the couch or even a covered dog crate for her to hide in when she's freaking out. If she normally has the run of the house, you may want to close off some of the other rooms to encourage her to use the new hiding spots. Sprinkle some catnip, or spray cat pheromones, in these areas to further enhance the feeling of calm and draw her in.

Ignore Her

It sounds counterintuitive for coaxing out a shy cat, but one option is to ignore her. Once she's used to her new safe zones you've created, sit nearby when she's calm and comfortable. Don't interact with her -- just sit quietly to let her get used to you and realize that you're safe. Have a snack with you while you sit nearby, so she'll associate you with something positive. Speak softly to her as she eats, offering encouraging words and a sense of calm. Do not approach her or encourage her closer to you. Let her decide when she's comfortable enough to venture forward.

Encourage Her Interest

As a shy kitty becomes more confident -- less fearful -- she may start coming close to check you out. Don't celebrate yet, as one wrong move on your part could start this whole process over. Sit still and speak in soft tones to encourage her interest. Move slowly when you offer a treat or a toy. Let her take the lead; don't force things. Hold out your hand to let her smell you; pet her if she seems willing. Calm and safe are the key words in this exercise. You want her to feel that she's in no danger.

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