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Can a timid cat become friendly?

In this blog we will look at timid cats and how you can support them to become more friendly.

I’ve had 3 cats in my adult life, all unique and completely different to each other. Which let’s face it you would expect because every cat is an individual. We don’t expect every human to be the same and we can’t expect this of cats either.

My relationship with each of the cats I have shared my life with have been such a transformational experience for me. Starting with Pickle who hissed and scratched my hand to pieces when we first got her to Leo who tried his best to be the invisible cat. And then of course Baby Max who brushes up against my leg and then looks like the wind has knocked him over as he rolls onto his tummy with legs wide open for tummy touches.

I have over 15 years’ experience of working with and living with cats, and it can be a real roller coaster let me tell you. Pickle may have started out hissing and scratching but by the end of our time together she would sleep on my pillow, she would spoon with me on the sofa, and she would rarely leave my side. Our relationship blossomed over the 13 years we had together, and I miss her most days.

With this blog we are looking at can a timid cat become friendly. Pickle wasn’t timid she was scared when we got her from the rescue centre.

Now Leo … he is an example of a timid cat.

Let’s look at Leo

Leo was feral for the first 18 months of his life. He was captured by a rescue centre as part of a trap, neuter and return programme. The plan was for him, and the other cats he was captured with, to be re-homed on a farm. Having the capacity to live outside but also to be supported by guardians if needed. Yet he showed interest in humans. He was shy, nervous, timid but also curious. One of the rescue centre workers spent regular time with Leo building trust. Using treats, food, and a little play to create a relationship with him over the 3 months he was at the rescue centre.

I’ll keep this brief, because I could share the story of Leo with you in every finite detail, we brought Leo (previously known at Leat) home.

It took him 24 hours to eat, 3 days to emerge from under his cat bed. You read that right…UNDER his cat bed. I didn’t know he was a cave cat, a cat that feels safe in total darkness. The only way he could feel safe was to become invisible.

Now I know this about Leo I support him in any way I can. When we go to the vets he has a blanket over his carrier, we offer a blanket in the treatment room for him to at the very least cover his face and eyes with. I have created a space behind the spare bed and sofa for him to hide in and he has an igloo style bed to sleep in overnight. Leo rarely shows his tummy, he freezes when I pick him up and if I ever put him on my lap he jumps straight down. Yet…he will come onto my chest some mornings and purr for cuddles. He occasionally will settle on my pillow, or on my feet on the sofa. He gives eye kisses (aka slow blinks) freely and when I walk down the stairs he pops his head through the banister so I can kiss him on the top of his head. He runs away if the doorbell rings, or anyone comes near or into the house. Yet he gives head boops a plenty when he is in the mood for them.

I have been Leo’s guardian for 4 years and in that time our relationship has changed, transformed and evolved. And so has Leo.

Yes a shy, timid, nervous cat can become friendly BUT you need to be patient.

You need to build trust, and that takes time.

The more you can honour, accept and appreciate the cat as the unique being that it is the more they will open up to you.

Forcing a cat for cuddles, interaction or engagement is a sure-fire way to damage your relationship with them.

Top tips to build trust:

Take the pressure off. Don’t stare at the cat or force interaction. Sit with a book or your phone. Simply being near the cat can help them to trust you.
Use treats, food or snacks to tempt the cat near you.
Be patient.
Celebrate the small wins. Leo coming out from under the cat bed was a win for us.
Appreciate the cat that you have don’t expect the cat that you want!
Be open. To any interaction or engagement and appreciate the bond you are building.

When we connect with cats we need to be patient. Every cat is unique. An individual. If you open your heart to meet your cat where they are you will be amazed at the relationship you can create.

The more I take a step back and remove the pressure of physically connecting with the Leo the more open he becomes.

Appreciation not expectations!

I hope you have enjoyed this blog. Take time to build a relationship with your cat.

If you know of someone who has a timid cat please share this blog with them.

With Love,
Julie-Anne, Leo and Baby Max xxx

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Thumbnail image by Photo by Sam Lion

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