How can I help build my cat’s confidence?


Editor's Picks
If your cat is shy and nervous, behaviourist Kim Houston shares her advice on how to help build your cat's confidence.

Q) I’ve taken on a lovely rescue cat who I’ve called Milo. He is a shy boy who has had some tough experiences in his life. He has settled in well and appears to be comfortable at home. He’s not the cuddliest cat but I don’t mind, I just want him to have the best life possible. He will probably be a nervous kitty for life, but is there anything else I can do to help build his confidence?

Milo has certainly landed on all four paws finding his forever home with you! It sounds as though you’ve made a considerable amount of progress with him, which is wonderful.

A new home and a new life can be very daunting for most cats, and depending on past experiences and the nature of the cat, the settling in process can take time.

Please remember it’s still only very early days. However, you sound like an experienced pet owner and are doing a lot of positive things in helping Milo with his issues. You are treating him with patience and reassurance, and providing him with routine, which should help him to settle into family life.

The key to successful It’s safer for cats to be in at night. handling is to keep everything positive. With nervous cats like Milo, it’s important that you let him be the one that initiates any contact. This may take longer in a shy or nervous cat, so patience is the key here. In order to create a bond with him, please try to ensure that all interactions are extremely positive; offering him either a reciprocal greeting or a food reward could reinforce this process.

Content continues after advertisements

When he enters the room, try greeting him by blinking your eyes very slowly at him. This is a non-threatening, cat-friendly way of saying ‘hello’. Then, while sitting quietly on the sofa, outstretch your arm and offer your boy an extra special tasty treat. If he is too shy to approach, then gently throw the treat towards him. Over time, he will learn to associate all things positive with you and his confidence and bond with you should grow.

If possible, try to engage Milo in a few daily interactive play sessions, as this will further help to increase his confidence and the bond that you have with him. Perhaps try rotating the toys in order to keep the games interesting. Enriching his environment by providing activity feeders and lots of high up resting places and hiding places should increase his sense of security even further.

Top tip!

Cats like control, so if your cat is anxious, allow them to come to you and manage social interactions.

Advice given by behaviourist Kim Houston.