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What to do with a shy cat

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
What to do about my new shy cat

I recently adopted a 3-year-old tabby from my local shelter. Even at the shelter, he was a very shy cat and because of this he had been at the shelter for about a year. Seeing as I have a very calm quiet household, I thought (and still do think) he would eventually adjust well to living with me (not to mention he was far to cute to pass up).

Not surprisingly, he quickly hid under my couch as soon as soon as we brought him home (I have a 1 bedroom apartment, so I decided I would keep him in the living room until he became adjusted to my household, as our bedroom has far too many crooks to hide in). After about a week, he still hides under the couch all day and comes out at night to eat and use the litter box.

Through this last week, I’ve been feeding him a little treat at night trying to coax him out from under the couch. He will eat out of my hand right now, but won’t in anyway come out from the couch. It seems like he is quite calm when I am sitting on, or by the couch, as well as when I lay on the floor close to him. However, when either my girlfriend or I walk around the house, he becomes quite alert and stares at our feet. Would it be a bad idea to shut off access to the couch so the cat would have to find a more open place to hide? The only reason I suggest this is the fact that I think it would benefit him to see us more when we move around, to realize our movement isn’t a threat.

Any replies or suggestions are welcome. I know that taking letting a very shy cat adapt to new environment can take a very long time, I simply want to make sure I am moving in the right direction.
post #2 of 8
Maybe an obvious question, but do you wear shoes inside? That could make a difference as they can be noisy and sound hard.
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
We don't wear shoes inside, and we have carpet as well.
post #4 of 8
I'd suggest not cutting off his hiding spot, because he'll just find another one. We tried it briefly with our kitten but soon found he simply ended up in another one. He didn't want to be out in the open, so he made sure he wasn't

As for the shyness, it will probably always be a factor in his personality. I'd suggest sitting next to the couch and ignoring him. You know, so he can see that you're there, but you're not trying to touch him or get at him or even give him food. You want him to associate you with being just another thing in his space, not just a provider of food or affection. So just sit there, reading a book or watching TV. If your back gets tired, lay down so he can still see most of you. Don't even look at him, or if you do look at him just glance at him or blink slowly.

He may not come out right away, which is why you should have a book or something. Books are good because they don't make much noise, but they keep your eyes on something close by.

Hopefully, he'll want to come out by you and will then use you as a "safe point" or "tether," meaning that he will associate "safe" with you, and see that if you're somewhere new, he'll be safe there as well. That's also why you don't do it with food/treats or affection -- you want him to be comfortable just being in the same space as you are.
post #5 of 8
One of my cats (all rescues) was extemely skittish for the first year and a half I had him. He would always run away. I don't know that I ever got to pet him for more than a second. Then suddenly, again after about a year and a half, he presented himself to me to be petted. You could sort of see him thinking, hey this is nice! Since then, he's a million times more affectionate -- more so every year --- but he still doesn't like to be held.

So I guess what I'm saying is, give him time. He may surprise you. But I agree - don't take away his hiding place. He'll figure out things are safe from there in his own time. And EggyToast is right about the slow blinking at him - apparently, to cats that means "I like you."
post #6 of 8
Sounds like Seamus, at first hid all day and came out to eat and poop when I slept, then would sit at a distance and just watch me, and if I moved, he was off... I pushed the issue a little not knowing any better and realized it was just getting me scratched up and sending him back into his nooks and crannies so I let him be... slowly but surely he gained confidence... eventually, a year or so later, he slept on the foot of the bed with me, then would jump to me on the couch, and now, he cuddles and everything... it just takes time with some cats... let him get more comfortable on his own terms... when Seamus would come out and sit for a while and just be, I'd throw him a treat and he'd come closer, then go back to his comfort zone... time and patience, he'll come around... giving him treats under the couch will only encourage him to stay there and wait for you to show a treat...

He may not be the cat you want him to be for a while, but if you push the issue it just sets him back and sends him back into hiding... it'll happen, but you have to let him work on his terms...
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies everyone. I'll leave General Sherman where he is and simply let him come out when he feels comfortable.
post #8 of 8
I got Rescued Yuki & she came from situation where all the animals were seized from a Mentally ill woman in Chicago who lived in a downtown 1 bedroom apartment who had 30+ cats, none were fixed, so there were live and dead kittens everywhere. Having no socialization skills etc.

Yuki was one of them, She was neutered and vaccinated just before she got here. She came home, I saw how pretty she was, I stuck her in the livingroom litterbox... then boom under the couch, where she stayed for a month, she came out only for using the litterbox then back under the couch, I put her water and food under the couch for her so that she would have everything she needed. (even tho Horatio would go under there an eat it ) Horatio got to meet her and they got aquainted way before we did.

After about a Month, she started to come out for short peroids but was skiddish and at any noise would go back under the couch. A month and a half We were able to touch her & found that she was BUNNY SOFT 2 Months She would brave sleeping out on the couches etc.

Now we have had her for 6 Months & she is the most LOVING & Playful kitty, Since the introduction of Max she has also become a 2nd LAP KITTY You would never know she had such a shy start, however if she does not know you, she will not let you touch her and she will hide... but she warms up, friends that frequent the house, she loves up on them like they are family.

So give your new kitty time... Yuki gave us a 100% turn around from when we got her. We had no idea what her personality would be. She is great.

NOW we have Big Ben... *sigh* HE is being a BIG Challenge. But that's ok. We are A Month or so In, He is a LOVER to US, HISSES and SPITS and GROWELS at the other Kitties STILL.... Hopefully that will eventually change he's 3 years old, bigger than the others. Hides after he displays his displeasure with them... however he has JUST started to explore the house and get out from under the bed... which is good. So thats a step. I just gotta hope He doesn't always hate the other 3 kitties.

All Cats come out in their time... its just an adjustment that they have to handle in their own time on their terms. All they know is that they've been taken from one place to another. They don't know that you are there to love them forever and ever, they just have to learn that in time.

Ok... I've written a book.

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