Not all cats can be as feisty as Puss in Boots or as pugnacious as Garfield. There are those that are so skittish that they will seek the darkest corner to hide the moment they sense something is “off”. While this is understandable in some situations, having a feline that lacks confidence can be problematic. Cats that are not confident can be aggressive, withdrawn, or display other problematic behaviors. The good news is that there are ways in which you can turn your scaredy cat into a confident kitty.
Invest in a Pheromone Diffuser or Other Calming Aids
Pheromones are natural substances that cats and other animals secrete in an effort to communicate with others. Such substances also play an important role in keeping cats calm and more relaxed. When felines mark a territory, they do it by releasing pheromones on a particular area. This “marks” their territory and makes them feel safe. They know that no harm will come to them because they are in their “exclusive zone”.
Unfortunately, when you clean your house, there is a chance that these pheromone-marked places get removed. This can cause problems for the cat. All of a sudden, the security of the “pheromone scent” is no longer there. That is why they can feel very anxious and skittish.
To address such issues, it is best to invest in a pheromone diffuser. These are synthetic chemicals that mimic the properties of natural feline pheromones. What the device does is that it allows the passive diffusion of the synthetic chemical into the air. In essence, you are filling the air in the house with pheromones. This will help the cat feel safer and calmer, too.
If you do not like diffusers, you can purchase cat pheromone sprays or wipes. Most pet parents prefer wipes as they can rub them against their cat’s body. Anywhere the cat goes, the scent goes with it. There are also other calming aids that you can try. A good option is chewable treats that contain L-theanine.
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Establish and Maintain a Calm and Safe Environment
Felines are very territorial. They crave for a place where they can feel very safe and secure. They want a dependable and very familiar environment. In fact, very few feline breeds appreciate change. It disrupts their peaceful world. It is for this reason that establishing and maintaining a calm and safe environment is crucial to helping your cat develop confidence.
Using pheromones in the house can help provide a calm environment for the cat. However, this is not the only way you can make your pet feel safe and calm. There are other ways, too.
One good option is to provide it with its own safe and cozy retreat. It does not have to be lavish. A large repurposed box should be enough. If you want to give the best for your kitty, you might want to buy a dome bed or a pet carrier. Dome beds are excellent hideaways for skittish felines. They will feel a lot safer inside. Moreover, you will also have that peace of mind knowing that the animal is safe in its “den”. This is a lot better than letting it hide in some dark crevice somewhere in your house.
Another option will be to provide your pet with a cat tree. There is this feeling of security whenever cats are perched high up on a platform. They are able to live out their predatory nature while also giving them the chance to escape from other predators. When cats are in an elevated position, they will have a better view of the action down below. They can watch what is happening without ever getting involved. Being in an elevated position also gives cats a sense of security. They know that any threat of predator ambush is nil.
It also helps to keep the noise levels in your house down. This means no shouting or playing loud music as if you are in a concert venue. Unfortunately, you will have to talk to your children to avoid boisterous play. Most cats do not like noisy environments. They have this feeling that the noise can distract them from focusing on any predator that may be stalking them.
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Learn, Master, and Respect Your Cat’s Body Language
Pets cannot communicate in a manner that is easy to understand. Therefore, it is imperative that pet parents do everything they can to learn a cat’s body language.
One of the reasons why a cat may be fearful is that it feels its owner does not understand the animal’s needs or what it is trying to communicate. For example, if you see a cat with its ears turned back or is flat against the animal’s head, this is often a sign that the pet is feeling defensive and scared. Other signs can include a lowered tail, a ball-shaped stance, whiskers closer to the pet’s face, and dilated pupils. These are all indicative of anxiety or fear in the cat. The message? Back off. The cat is not in the mood for some cuddling. It is nervous.
If you go ahead and approach this cat, it will grow more anxious. It is already trying to tell you to back off. But since you don’t know how to read the animal’s body language, you create a situation where the cat cannot trust you anymore. How else do you expect your pet to build confidence if it cannot trust you to understand and respect its subtle messages?
Helping your cat build confidence means you have to decipher, understand, and respect the different meanings of its body language. If you cannot do this, then the cat will feel something is wrong with itself. It begins to doubt whether the signals it is sending you are correct or not.
Engage the Cat in More Meaningful Play
Playing with your pet cat helps develop confidence in the kitty. It tells the kitty that it can trust you. Spending time means the cat is safe and secure. It knows that you are there to protect it and that no harm will come to it as long as you are playing.
This can take time, however. You cannot expect a skittish cat to play with you right away. Most cats will stay hidden in their dens. What you need to do is to lure them out using appropriate cat toys. You can use feather toys or lure toys that come with a toy rat at the end. This should help stimulate the hunting instinct in the scaredy cat.
Sit on the floor and place the toys in front of you. If the animal is receptive enough, it will come out and play. If not, then you have to show patience. Do not wiggle or do anything with the toys. Let the cat come to you. Allow it to investigate the toys. The idea here is for the cat to get used to these toys. Once the cat is confident enough in the presence of these toys, you can proceed to the next level.
Pick up the toy and use it to pet your cat. Start rubbing the toy on the cat’s head and around its face. This will help stimulate the release of pheromones that can help make the cat feel calmer. If the cat likes it, you can add your hand. Over time, the animal should grow accustomed to both the toy and your touch.
An alternative will be playing with your cat from a safe distance. This is where a long feather wand can be very helpful. It allows your cat to play with the toy while maintaining a safe distance from you. As you progress, you will notice that your cat is growing more confident when you can already shorten the distance between you and the feather at the end of the wand.
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Provide More Positive Experiences Using Treats
Pet treats do not only work on dogs; they are also effective on cats. After all, most cats are greatly motivated by food. It is an inextinguishable instinct that all cats need to survive.
If your cat is shy, place the cat treats near its hideaway and move about 10 feet back. This will help encourage your cat to come out of its hiding place and take the treats. Do this several times a day for a few days. Your cat should grow more confident with you around.
In the succeeding stages, you are going to reduce the distance between you and the cat. You will also lengthen the amount of time that you are with the pet. Over time, the cat will already be so accustomed to you being around that you can start giving it the treats with your hand.
You can also use this technique in case you have a visitor. If you give your pet its treat, it will know that it is okay for the guest or visitor to be in your house.
Turning your scaredy cat into a confident kitty requires patience and perseverance on your part as a pet parent. If you’re able to carry out these tips, you’ll have a confident feline sooner than you’d expect.
- How to Comfort a Scared Cat – PetMD