Kitten should not be scared of people at the age when he is moving to his new home (about 10 to 12 weeks of age or later). If he is, it may indicate to improper socialization, which means, he had a bad or lack of experience with humans in his early life. Good news is, you are still able to work in gaining his trust and confidence.
In our previous articles, we explained how should you go about introducing a kitten to his new home and how to introduce him to your dog. This time we want to talk about dealing with a situation, when your new acquired kitten is scared as hell of you, your spouse and everyone.
Overcome the fear in you kitten gradually
- Create a separate room for your cat. Since your kitten is experiencing a stress, in the beginning you should keep him in one room only so you do not overwhelm him and are able to leave him undisturbed, when necessary. We already described how to create a initial room for your kitten in our article about introducing a kitten to his new home.
- Review hiding spots in the room. Kitten has to feel secure, but not isolated. If the is staying under the bed for the whole day, staring at the wall in the darkness, it’s not good. However, when a person, the kitten is afraid of, enters the room, it’s also not well if the kitten has nowhere to run. So, there are two things to look after. Reduce the amount of bad hiding locations, like in the closet, under the bed and behind the couch. Make them inaccessible or even remove the furniture off the room, if necessary. Second, you have to create locations, where your kitten can hide, but still observe what’s going on. Great examples are window sill with a semi opaque curtain, plants with large leaves, cat tree platforms as they provide a security on elevation, cardboard boxes with opening cut out on some of the sides, cat tunnels, houses and similar. It’s very necessary to provide as many such locations, as possible so the kitten can dash to the closest one when you enter the room.
- Do not force your attention towards the kitten. Since he is afraid, you should keep your distance and respect his privacy. Do the maintenance, as necessary, like clean the litter box, replace the water and pour in the food and leave.
- Spend some time in your kitten’s room. Since you are the one feeding the kitten, he may start accept your presence, and, you might want to start spending some more time in the room. However, you still should do it in a non disturbing way, like sitting and reading the newspaper. In the beginning, make those sessions short, but try to do several throughout the day.
- Talk to your kitten. When he is already comfortable with a small amount of your presence, you can take a look at the kitten, and, if he’s watching back, talk to him. Yes, yes, like if you would talk to a person, but do it in a casual voice and tone. Call his name, tell that everything’s gonna be fine, and you are going to take care of him. If it does not seem dumb to you, you may talk about the weather, too.
- Feed the kitten in your presence. At some point, when you notice that the kitten goes for food quite soon after you pour it in, you might try not to leave the room. Sit in a distant corner instead, and watch what is going on. You might try canned food, or meat to make this more appealing. If the kitten goes for food, keep sitting and wait till he is finished, and, in the next time, try sitting a bit closer to the bowl. If, however, the kitten is not gathering enough courage in a short amount of time, leave and try again when some more time has passed.
- Encourage the playing. While you are in the room quietly, you can introduce the playing. Start by just dragging a cat toy along the floor, and play like if you were doing it for yourself. Most likely, your kitten will not jump at it as he is still afraid, and will keep the distance; however, if he’s watching with an interest – it’s a good sign. Do not force playing, nor push your kitten to go after the toy. You can read here how to make your cat more interested in a toy, without using force.
- Keep it gradual. Alter the activities listed above, increase the amount you spend in the room, decrease the distance between both of you and make sure to watch his response. If he’s getting stressed, you’re proceeding too fast. Do not rush anywhere, it’s normal to take up to months for this process to carry out, depending on the initial fright on the kitten, and how well you are both doing.
- Be ready your cat may remain suspicious for his entire life. Above technique will give an improvement in your relationship, no doubt. However, depending on the age of your kitten, you may understand, that his early life experience can leave a huge imprint in his attitude; thus, no matter how good is your own relationship with the kitten, he may still be afraid of strangers and even certain situations in your presence. Best solution would be creating several great locations where you kitten might get some peace.
Please note, the same technique is going to be useful to make an adult, or even senior cat less scared of you. However, the older the cat, the more time and effort will be necessary from both sides.
In our next article we are going to discuss whether it’s better to keep your new cat exclusively indoors, or should you grant him an outdoor access.
This article is a part of series for beginner cat owners.