The world can seem like a big and uncertain place from the perspective of a kitten, particularly one that’s recently been separated from their mum and litter. Here are some ways to bring your newest family member out of their shell.
While some kittens buck the trend and demand your affection right from the get go, it’s far more common for kittens to be timid and fearful when you bring them home. If yours has taken to hiding under the bed or in a box and won’t be coaxed out for love or money, don’t panic, this is completely normal behaviour. However, it’s important to help your scared kitten overcome their fear to prevent them from growing up to be a scaredy-cat.
First, help your scared kitten feel safe with you
Before you start introducing your scared kitten to other people or animals, it’s important that they learn to trust and feel safe around you. Here are some steps you can take.
Keep them in a safe place
Instead of letting them roam around the house where they can be overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar sights and sounds, keep your kitten in a small, ‘safe’ room with no hiding spots. Start them off in a crate and give them some items that are going to make them feel more secure, such as a blanket with their mother’s scent on it, and a cosy bed. Make sure they always have access to a litter box and fresh water.
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Slowly introduce yourself
When your kitten has settled in their crate, go into their safe room and pet them. Do this in short intervals at various times throughout the day so your kitten becomes comfortable and familiar with your presence. Make sure that you move slowly and speak in a soft voice so you don’t scare your kitten even more. Cute as your kitten is, and as much as everyone wants to play with them, try to ensure that only one person interacts with them for the first few days while they are adjusting.
Create a routine
Help your kitten settle into their new life with you by creating a stable routine every day. Your kitten will learn to expect to be fed, groomed, and have playtime on a schedule and this structure will give them more confidence.
Hold and comfort your kitten
A frightened kitten will probably resist being picked up by a stranger, so start by picking them up in a gentle, calm and supportive way. Consider using a towel or light blanket to assist if needed. Reassure your kitten by speaking softly to them and calmly stroking their fur until they relax.
Stress and anxiety relief
Cats can be stressed by changes in the environment or when in unfamiliar situations. Introducing stress and anxiety relieving products in the environment can help alleviate this stress. These products are designed specifically to help relieve stress and anxiety by releasing scents that mimick natural calming pheromones.
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Show them love during playtime
After they feel comfortable with you petting them and picking them up, let your kitten out of their crate to roam their safe room. Introduce them to some toys and start playing with them to strengthen your bond.
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Give your kitten treats
Reward your scared kitten’s good behaviour with some delicious treats. This also encourages them to be close to you and forms a positive association.
Use treatment or a vet consultation if necessary
Talk to your local Petbarn team members about using Feliway, a synthetic pheromone that helps cats adjust to new environments. If you have tried slowly adjusting your kitten to their new life and they’re still very afraid, speak with your Greencross Vet who can devise an unique plan of action to help your kitten overcome their fears.
Next, socialise your kitten
Kittens that aren’t properly socialised have a tendency to grow up into fearful cats, so after your kitten is trusting of you, it’s important that you introduce them to a variety of people to get them used to other company. We’ve prepared this instructional guide for you to learn how to introduce your new kitten to your cat, dog and other family members.
Of course, this needs to be done slowly and takes a lot of time depending on your feline’s individual temperament. It’s always best to allow your kitten to approach new people, not the other way around, and to put them back in their safe room if they ever become overwhelmed.
With patience and love, your kitten will soon learn that they have nothing to fear and they’ll soon develop a healthy curiosity towards their environment.