Nervous cats

Cats, Cat behaviour

An initial period of hiding is normal as cats adjust to new environments, but some cats remain very fearful despite a gentle welcome.

If we can understand why our cats choose to hide, then we can remain patient with them as they learn to trust us and adapt to our lives. As a solitary species the cat has no ‘pack’ to back it up if things go wrong so hiding is where they feel the most safe. 

Making a safe space for your nervous cat

Make sure that they have a covered bed or cat carrier to hide in, plus high spots to watch from. They shoud have easy access to a litter tray, food and water in quiet areas. Clean out the litter box and change the water every day as this way you can check that they are eating and drinking.

Spend time in the same area as your cat but ignore them totally. You will find that over time they will come out when they are ready. If you force an interaction or try to remove them from a hiding place it will prevent bonding and they may become more fearful.

As they gain courage and explore your home it is best to give a nervous cat a feeling of invisibility, to allow them to move around the home without being the focus of attention.  

Our top three tools in bonding with a nervous cat

Pheromones.  Your cat may benefit from the use of Feliway, a synthetic pheromone that reinforces a message of safety and familiarity in the home.

Food.  A great motivator for cats, if it is tasty enough! Offering small amounts of meat, fish or other high-value treats in a bowl is a useful way to encourage a cat to explore different rooms or spend time in close proximity to you. progress then to offering the same treats on the palm of your outstretched hand may entice your cat to take food directly from you.

Play.  Many cats find playing irresistible. Using a toy, attached to a string and a long rod, would enable your cat to enjoy the game fully without feeling you are too close.

Takeaway tips

  • Don’t rush – it will take time for your cat to feel secure and confident.
  • Always allow your cat the choice to approach you – don’t seek them out or remove them from their hiding place. 
  • Cats feel safer in high places so make sure a few are available for when your cat ventures into the room.


» See also Making your home cat-friendly


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