rspca

Settling in shy cats at home

Cats Pet Care Pets Posted Jul 4, 2022
Pets are individuals and settling in shy cats at home can take time, here are our top cat care tips!

If you’re considering adopting a cat, not every feline will instantly adjust from the first day in your home. If you have a shy cat, it can take time and patience.

Do you have a shy cat?

Shy cats will frequently spend days hiding when first introduced to a new environment. In most cases, if left to their own devices they will come out in their own time. Don’t be tempted to drag them out of their hidey hole and pat them just yet. Sometimes they may even explore their new surroundings when you’re not around.

A shy cat will display eyes wide open, their movements slow and their body close to the ground. If you notice this, that’s the best time to just watch from a distance and try not to interact with them until they are ready and approach you.

Top tips for timid kitties and settling in a new cat
  • Start your kitty off in a quiet and safe enclosed “launch space”. This could be a dedicated spare room.
  • Use a pheromone spray or diffuser such as Feliway to aid calmness.
  • Have plenty of resources for your cat in the room – bedding, toys etc.
  • Provide hiding places as a retreat and security.
  • Provide two kitty litter trays initially to give your timid cat choices for going to the toilet.
  • Go at your cat’s pace: time, patience and love will build reassurance.
  • Use calm and consistent interactions with soft words and tasty, soft foods.
  • If your new cat meows and vocalises from within a hiding place like under a bed or couch, you can speak to them quietly and calmly.
Exploring the whole house

Most shy cats will emerge cautiously from their launch room and want to explore more of your home in their own time. Invite your cat into other areas of the home, but return them to their launch room after some time exploring, this will help them build their confidence over time.

Cats love climbing and having access to high places. This is part of their natural behaviour and helps them cope with stress. Help your new cat adjust by providing lots of high resting places – tall cat stands, placing bedding or boxes on top of cupboards, and place at least one hiding place in every room.

Encouraging play with shy cats

You can encourage play with your cat by dangling an inviting toy on the end of a string or rolling a wad of paper with an aromatic and tasty treat inside down a hallway. This will go a long way towards fostering a closer relationship between you and your cat, as well as help increase your cat’s confidence.

From timid cat to ruler of his domain - Mister
Introducing your new cat to your existing cats

If you have a multi-cat household, exchange bedding between your cats, so that they can start to get used to the smell of each other before meeting.

After about a week of separate lives, you can try limited interaction under a door between your new cat and existing cats.

You can begin to allow your new cat access to more of your house. In multi-cat households, do this when your existing cats are in a different part of the house. Also, allow your existing cats to explore the room where your new cat has been. 

After two weeks, this is an ideal time for your felines to meet, but remember, every cat is an individual and may need longer. Bring your new cat in a carrier into the area where your existing cat is. Tip: Feed both cats during this short interaction to help reduce stress. 

Continue doing this over an extended period, moving your existing cat’s bowl closer to the cat carrier each time. When your cats are eating happily side-by-side, you can try short supervised direct interactions between your new and existing cats. All going well you can then gradually increase their supervised time together. 

TIP: Do not leave your new cat and existing cats together unsupervised until several supervised interactions without aggression have occurred. The process of introducing a new cat may take several weeks. Older cats may need a quiet space away from kittens for an extended period. On the other hand, friendly, well- socialised cats may adapt to each other quickly. 

Pheromone products may ease stress between your felines and should be used in conjunction with gradual their introduction. Feliway diffusers and sprays can be found at RSPCA World for Pets or from your vet. 

Litter tray troubles

Toileting problems can arise in multi-cat households. Why? Some cats won't use a litter tray used by other cats, or even when already used. It is ideal to have one litter tray per cat in your household and in multiple rooms (not all in the same area). It gives your felines some added privacy.

Need extra help settling in your shy cat at home, talk to our team today on 07 3426 9954.

We also have cat fact sheets here to help your cat adjust at home.

Welcoming a new cat into your family is incredibly rewarding, if you’re looking to adopt a cat, here are our RSPCA cats available to adopt across Queensland.

Emma Lagoon
Share this article
Find the perfect pet