Are you wondering why my new kitten is scared of me? A kitten should not be scared of people at the age when they are moving to their new home. After weaning from their mother, a kitten is ready to go to their forever home at the age of 10 to 12 weeks of age or later. If you notice fearful behavior from your kitten, it may indicate that they had improper or insufficient socialization. This means that he or she may have had a bad experience or a lack of experience with humans in their early life. The good news is that you are can work towards gaining their trust and reduce their fear.
In our previous articles, we explained how you should you go about introducing a kitten to their new home and how to introduce them to your dog. This is especially useful information if you already have a resident cat. This time we want to talk about dealing with the situation where your new beautiful kitten is showing fear of you the pet owner, your spouse, and/or people in general.
Table of Contents
- How do you know if a kitten is scared of you?
- How do you get a scared kitten to trust you? 8 Fixes
- How long will your kitten be scared of me?
How do you know if a kitten is scared of you?
Cat behavior that is classified as fear can be observed in your kitten. If your cat has dilated pupils, their ears are flat and held outwards, their whiskers are flat or pressed down onto their face, their tail is tucked under their body or wrapped close in while lying prone, these are signs of fear according to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
How do you get a scared kitten to trust you? 8 Fixes
Every one of the below 8 steps aren’t usually required for behavior modification of a fearful cat. As a loving cat owner, please understand that your patience and understanding will be key to gain your scared cat’s trust while reducing their anxiety.
- Create a separate room for your cat. Since your shy cat is experiencing some type of stress, in the beginning you should keep them in one room only so you do not overwhelm them. This means you are able to leave them undisturbed when necessary. This will give them a safe place in their mind. 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. Again, your kitten has to feel secure but not isolated. If they are staying under the bed for the whole day staring at the wall in the darkness, it’s a clear sign of a fear response. However, when a person the kitten is afraid of enters the room, it’s also not good if your kitten has nowhere to run. There are two things to look after. First, try to remove any type of bad hiding place, like in the closet, under the bed, and behind the couch. Make them inaccessible or even remove the furniture from the room if necessary. Second, you have to create hiding spot locations where your kitten can hide, but still observe what’s going on. Great examples are a window sill with a semi opaque curtain, plants with large leaves, a cat tree with elevated platforms as they provide a security on elevation, cardboard boxes with openings cut out on some of the sides, cat tunnels, cat houses and crates. It’s really beneficial to provide as many of these type of locations as possible so your kitten can dash to the closest one when someone enters the room.
- Do not force your attention towards the kitten. Since he or she is afraid, you should keep your distance and respect their privacy. Avoid any loud noise that may startle your cat. Make sure you don’t make any sudden movement that could seem like aggression per the ASPCA by your cat. Do the maintenance that you need to keep the room your cat is in. Things like cleaning the litter box, replacing the water in their dish, and pour in some cat food and leave.
- Spend some time in your kitten’s room. Since you are the one feeding your kitten, he or she may start accept your presence. You can slowly start spending more time in the their safe space. Again, slowly increase the time. However, you still should do it in a non disturbing way, like sitting quietly and reading something on your phone. In the beginning, make those sessions short but try to do several throughout the day.
- Talk to your kitten. When they appear to start being more comfortable with a small amount of your presence, you can take a look at your kitten. If he or she is looking back at you, talk to them. Yes, talk as if you would talk to a person, but do it in a calm, soothing voice and tone. Say their name. Reassure them that everything’s gonna be fine. Tell them you are going to take care of them. It’s not really what you are saying since they can’t understand you. It’s really about how you say it, your body language (non-threatening), and your calming presence. If you notice your kitten meowing at you, this is a very positive sign. Per the ASPCA, a kitten will meow at their mother for food or alert her that something is wrong. As they grow, they communicate with other cats through scent and body language. This means meowing directed at you is a positive sign, your cat is trying to communication with you.
- Feed your kitten and try to stay in the room. At some point, when you notice that your kitten goes for the food soon after you pour it in, you might try to stay in the room. Sit in a distant corner and watch what is going on. You might try canned cat food, or wet cat food to make the meal more appealing. If your kitten goes for the food, keep sitting in the room and wait until they have finished eating. Next time, try sitting a little bit closer to the bowl. You want to encourage this positive association with you and cat food. If you notice that your kitten is still acting like an anxious cat with your presence, leave and try again when some time has passed. Your patience will be your best friend doing this.
- Encourage the playing. While you are in the room being quiet, you can introduce some form of play. Start by dragging a cat wand toy (a wand with a toy attached with a string) along the floor and play like as if you were doing it for yourself. You can also try an interactive toy which rewards playing behavior with kibble or cat treats you put inside. Most likely your kitten will not jump at it as they are still afraid and will keep the distance. However, if your cat’s watching with an interest, it’s a very good sign. Offer treats as positive reinforcement when you see progress in your cats behavior. 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 being too forceful.
- Slow but sure progress is your friend. 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 your cat’s response. If they are getting stressed, just back off a bit and try again later. Try maintaining eye contact for longer and longer periods but don’t stare, as that can seem like aggression per the ASPCA by your cat. Do not rush anywhere, it’s normal to take up to many weeks or months for this process to carry out depending on how much anxiety your kitten had when you brought them home. Your cat’s behavior and reaction to your presence will let you know how your socialization is progressing.
How long will your kitten be scared of me?
Be ready for the reality that your cat may remain suspicious for their entire life. The above techniques should make an improvement in your relationship. However, depending on the age of your kitten, you may not know or be aware that his or her early life experiences can leave a huge imprint in their attitude. Because of this, no matter how good your own relationship with your kitten, they may still exhibit anxious behavior in the company of strangers and even certain situations even with your presence. The best solution would be creating several great locations where your kitten can hide and get some peace.
Please note that the same techniques above are going to be useful to make an adult cat or an older cat less scared of you and maybe other people. However, the older your feline friend, the more time and effort will be necessary from both sides to reduce your cats anxiety.
Back to the main question, Why is my kitten afraid of me? Now that you know that it isn’t you that caused the fear response and that with love and patience you can help reduce or even eliminate your cat’s fears. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your cat. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.
In our next article we are going to discuss whether it’s better to keep your new cat exclusively indoors, or should you grant them an outdoor access.
This article is a part of series for beginner cat owners.