As a former owner of a shy cat, I know firsthand what it’s like to try to coax a furry feline out from hiding and try to make it a social creature. If you’ve had the experience of adopting a new cat only to discover your rescued kitty doesn’t want to come out of her shell, here are a few tips that might help.

Start small. Experts recommend that when you bring your new kitty home, you should place her in a small room–either a guest bedroom or bathroom along with bedding, food, water, litter box, and toys. I know here in Santa Barbara, most people don’t have houses big enough for a spare room, so you can also create a small space within a room. When I adopted my shy kitty, I put a door up in the kitchen and was able to keep her there for the first several days. However you choose to do it, a smaller space is better as shy cats tend to cope better if they can familiarize themselves with small spaces first. Otherwise you might find them hiding under a couch, trying to create a small space for themselves.

Calm her nerves with a pheromone. There are artificial pheromone sprays and diffusers you can purchase to help calm your cat’s nerves. Many cat shelters use pheromones to help cats adjust to the new shelter environment. Continue to use these products until your cat has adjusted. I’ve had a lot of success with Feliway spray and Feliway room diffuser, both can be purchased on Amazon for around $25.

Win her over with food or toys. Some cats are motivated by food, others by toys. Luckily, I had a shy cat that was motivated by both! Most fearful cats will come out of hiding when the right food or toy comes along. I was able to coax my kitty with a fishing pole toy that he would literally flip over. It’s call the “go cat” and can be purchased on Amazon for $7.What’s great about this toy is that it puts some distance between you and the cat, so a shy cat will feel more comfortable playing.

My shy cat was also food motivated. He loved freeze-dried chicken treats. As long as you don’t have a meat aggressive cat, these treats are perfect for coaxing your shy cat out of hiding places and helping him warm up to you. You can purchase these treats on Amazon for around $6. I used these same treats to help my senior cat sit still while I gave him subcutaneous fluids every other day. These treats have definitely worked miracles for my kitties.

Have hideaways. Fearful cats will feel more secure if they think they can’t be seen. A-frame hideaways or donut beds are wonderful because cats can curl up in a tight ball and they feel secure.

Keep things quiet. Loud noises can be terrifying to shy cats. Blaring loud music, the television or even talking in a high pitch voice can be discomforting to a fearful kitty. Try to keep things relatively quiet and peaceful for the initial weeks when your kitty first comes home. Soft music often helps soothe anxiety and can even help calm your nerves as well.

Try clicker training. Clicker training is a great way to build confidence in your shy cat and also create a bond between the two of you. For a full article on clicker training, see this previous Pet Chat column.

Patience is a virtue. It can be frustrating and down right exhausting trying to get your unsocial kitty to warm up to you. This is where patience comes in. Your cat may have been living on the streets before it found its way to an animal shelter and now it’s in yet another new environment. It may take days, weeks or even months for your new cat to feel comfortable in your home.

Whether you have a fearful kitten or a distressed adult cat, hopefully some of the tips I have outlined above will to help your shy kitty become a happy and social feline friend.

Adoptable Pet of the Week

Poker has a smile that will be sure to win over your heart! This eight-year-old male Spaniel mix loves to explore on his own and is a little on the independent side. But he also loves to play and be pet! He gets along with everyone he meets and has a great personality. Come in and visit him today!

For more information on adopting, visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Rd., or call 805-964-4777. Shelter hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. You can also visit to check out more adoptable pets.

Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions,


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