What can I do to instill confidence and a feel of security in a shy cat who tends to hide?

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Some cats, especially ferals or strays, can have a pretty awful start to life. These cats are often orphaned, abandoned and, hence, never socialized. Moreover, they’re frequently mistreated, especially when they’re left on their own to roam the streets.

If you have an edgy cat, there are a few things you can do to raise her confidence and instill trust. Just remember to go slow, be patient and be gentle (that goes for other people and pet visitors, too).

• Set a regular schedule. Cats don’t like surprises and are happiest when they have predictable habits. A set routine might calm her nerves a little. Feed your cat at the same times each day, and keep bedtime and wakeup time the same. Make playtime a part of the routine by designating a specific time of day for activity.
• Establish yourself as a friendly, safe figure, but allow her to approach you on her own terms. Keep a safe distance at first and she’ll eventually come closer to you. For example, use toys that come on strings or talk to her from the floor beside the bed if she runs under it.
• Give her two or three treats each day as part of the regular routine and see if she allows you to pet her while she approaches. If she does not, then withdraw your hand and allow her a little space.
• Begin by petting her gently on the head and, as she allows, you can gradually show more affection. Remember, cats don’t like to be rubbed on their stomachs until they trust you, so eventually she’ll roll over and might even allow you to pick her up—but let her make that decision!

NOTE: Keep in mind that a cat’s mood can change daily, and a nervous one could be affectionate and playful one day and shy again the next. Always be gentle and mindful of her frame of mind.

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