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July 14, 2021

Tips for Adopting a Shy Cat

  • Tips
  • Adoption
  • Shy Cat
  • Cat
Fluffy cat sitting on counter with dish and GO! SOLUTIONS Tetra Paks stacked in a pyramid

I am ready to adopt a cat or kitten! I don't mind if they're shy, I like the challenge!

If that sounds like you, then you may be looking to adopt a kitty who is on the shy side. While shy cats obviously deserve homes just like any other cat, it does come with some challenges.

3.2 million animals are adopted every year from shelters across the US, so the good news is that you aren't alone in these challenges. There are even some time-tested ways to warm up your furry friend into their new environment. Let's talk about some tips for adopting a shy cat.

Tips for Adopting a Shy Cat: Respect Personal Space

When you adopt a cat, you're giving them a stable home they may not otherwise have, which is an excellent thing to do for them. However, you don't know anything about their history, in many cases.

You may know when they were born, their weight, and sometimes the circumstances before going to the pet adoption center, but probably not much more. Because of this, it's important to respect their personal space.

There's a lot to learn about your new friend, especially if you're a first-time cat owner.

Forcing a cat to cuddle when they don't want to will make them want to do it less. Start small and build your way up to a more trusting relationship. Small interactions close by will be a good start and try to work your way up to petting them.

If they signal that they do not want to be pet, just be patient. You want this relationship to be mutual and not forced. Give your new friend as much quality time with you as you can before making contact. Who knows, they might get tired from playtime and head to your lap for a break!

However, this definitely won't happen if you aren't respecting their autonomy right off the bat. Cats are very independent creatures, so keep this in mind.

Have a Routine

If your cat is shy, understand that this could take some time, and plan for it. Your new friend may not warm up to you in the first few days, or even weeks.

The best thing to do right away is to establish a new routine for your furry friend and stick to it. They will understand how things work after a bit of time and adapt to it.
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Try to bring their food and water to them at the same time and keep your playtime (or playtime attempts) consistent and throughout the day, if possible.

Find Out Their Preferences

The easiest thing about cats is that they'll let you know what they like and don't like. If there's a type of food they don't like, try something different. Try a premium quality pet food brand, swap the food out for a different protein, or feed a recipe that caters to food sensitivities. Go! Solutions has nutritionally balanced food for cats of all ages. We understand that you want your cat to thrive, and we make food to serve that goal. Check out our supply of cat food that your furry friend will love.

You may have tried fake mice a hundred times only to find out that a feather or the most random piece of fabric finally makes them come out of their shell to play.

If you find the toy that makes their eyes light up, the food they love, and the sleeping spot they snuggle on, you'll be their best friend in no time.
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Meet Them Halfway

If your new cat won't come out from behind the washing machine, don't drag them out. Sit nearby and talk with them in a calm, friendly tone. Bring them them their favorite kibble or wet food, but leave them halfway and let them work their way out.

If they're really shy around new people, give them time to adjust before bringing people around. Just be cognizant of your cat and its needs.

Small Steps Add Up

As your cat warms up, increase the time in your interactions by a few minutes every day. Don't rush it. Try little things like experimenting with toys first to see if they want to play. While they will be more focused on the toy than you, they will understand that it is safe to do these activities around you. Try to keep your body nice and still while moving the toys. Sitting on the floor might be a good position for their comfort.

If they don't like to be pet yet, start with letting them sniff your hand until they are comfortable being touched by you. Be as patient as you can.

Later on, once they've warmed up a bit, you can try brushing them. Let them smell the brush first so they know it isn't harmful and be very gentle. Starting with a comb can be easier for shy cats, since it isn't as overstimulating as a brush.

After these interactions, use kibble pieces to reward your friend for letting you pet them, hold them, or whatever new step you were able to do.
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Be Careful Socializing

If your shy cat finally warms up to you, expect them to need some time for other humans you bring over. They may want nothing to do with them.

If you are introducing your friend to other felines, be careful. Socializing cats should be as gradual of a process as you can make it. Through a door or a screen when you start, if possible. Other pets, especially dogs, will likely scare them if humans do. 

Get Started, Just Not Too Fast

If you already adopted your shy cat, or you're about to, follow these steps. Just go slow, take your time, and let your kitty go at their own pace!


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Go! Solutions Team

A Team of Dedicated Pet Parents + Nutrition Experts

We all want our cats and dogs to lead happy, healthy lives. We’re here to help you, with easy-to-understand information about your pet's daily care and feeding.