How to Gain a Fearful Kitten or Cat's Trust
Written by: Richard Rowlands
If you're reading this article, it's likely that you've recently adopted a fearful kitten or cat, are fostering one, or one you've had for a while has developed some new, undesired behaviors. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to help remedy the situation. Keep reading for our top tips on how to gain a scared cat or kitten’s trust.
1) Rule Out Underlying Medical Causes
An excellent first step in determining the cause of your cat or kitten's fearful behavior is to rule out any underlying medical issues. This is as simple as taking your cat to a veterinarian to rule out medical causes for their abnormal behavior or behavior change.
According to research, a change in your cat or kitten's normal behavior can inform both owners and veterinarians of the possibility of health, discomfort, and stress issues. Many cats with underlying health issues, will exhibit their discomfort through behaviors associated with stress.
During your visit, tell your veterinarian about any changes in behavior or litter habits so they can help determine if there may be a medical cause for the fearful behavior. Your veterinarian can also run a few tests to rule out any health-related causes for the behavior change.
2) Understand What May Have Led to the Cat's Fearfulness
It's essential to understand what may have led to the cat's fearfulness before you can begin working on gaining their trust. Think about factors such as other cats in the home, the cat's relationship with their human guardians, any traumatic experiences that may have occurred in the past, or a change of environment.
Once you've identified what may be causing the behavior, you can take steps to remove potential triggers and make the cat's environment as stress-free as possible. You may need to experiment with a few different things to determine the root cause of the fearfulness.
3) Respect the Cat's Space and Give Them Time to Adjust
Respecting your kitten or cat's space and giving them time to adjust is crucial whether they're newly adopted or have been living with you for months or even years. Fearful behavior often results from a change in environment or new pets being introduced into the home.
Cats can become territorial if new people or animals are brought into their home. They may act out by hissing, swatting, or hiding from people or animals they perceive as a threat. Cats may also display this behavior towards other pets or people they were previously okay with. If this is the case, allow your kitty some time to adjust and give them their own space if they need it.
4) Don't Force Interaction With The Cat - Let Them Come To You
Fearful behavior often results from a cat being forced to interact with someone or something that they're not comfortable with. Because of this, it's essential to avoid forcing interaction with your kitty by cornering them or trying to grab them.
To gain your cat's trust, let them come to you and show interest in you first before trying to pet them. Do this by sitting on the floor with them and leaving some cat toys scattered around.
Cats are attracted to activity, so they may come up to you to investigate if there's movement around them. This may also be an excellent time to explore what types of toys get your kitten or cat's attention. Try experimenting with different kinds, such as teasers, wands, and catnip toys.
5) Reward Positive Behavior From The Cat With Treats or Petting
When gaining your kitty's trust, research suggests it's important that you provide positive reinforcement for any desired actions or behavior they show. The most effective way is rewarding them with a natural treat. However, other options like petting them or talking sweetly can also reinforce positive behavior.
Different cats will respond more to different kinds of rewards depending on your pre-existing bonds. The goal is for your kitty to understand that positive behaviors will always get a prize from you. Giving treats will help them better associate good things with other people or animals in the house. Continue to reward your kitten or cat for desired actions or behaviors until they become a habit.
6) Be Patient and Consistent In Your Approach
To gain a scared cat or kitten's trust, it's vital to be patient and consistent in your approach. This means managing your own expectations of the process, giving them time to adjust at their own pace, and constantly rewarding all positive behaviors they display. It's also important to be consistent with your rewards and all of your interactions with them.
By following this approach, you'll show your cat that there's nothing to fear from any people or animals in their environment. This will help them feel more comfortable and minimize fearful behavior. It may take time to gain or regain your kitty's trust, but it will be worth it as they'll feel safer and more confident.
7) Reach Out For Help
If you've tried all the basics but you're still having trouble gaining your cat or kitten's trust, it may be helpful to speak with a professional animal behaviorist. They'll be able to give you additional insight into your cat's behavior and what you can do to help them become more comfortable. Your veterinarian can help you find a qualified behaviorist in your area.
Gaining a scared cat or kitten’s trust can be challenging, but it's an essential part of helping them feel at ease. Stay patient, consistent, and positive to help your cat feel safe in their environment. And don't hesitate to reach out to a professional if you need additional guidance.