Is My Cat Shy? The Signs & How to Help

Is My Cat Shy? The Signs & How to Help | Lovebug Pet Foods

Are you worried your cat might be shy? Just like us humans, our cats can be shy or get nervous if they’re unsure of their surroundings or feeling uncomfortable. Whether your cat gets worried and hides away when you have house guests, or you’re thinking about adopting a cat who is a shy sensitive soul, we’re taking a deep-dive into the topic of shy cats.

There are many reasons for shyness in cats, and it’s important to understand the possible causes. Understanding the potential triggers for our cats’ shyness or nervousness will also help us to better help them - so let’s take a closer look at shyness in cats and see how we can help our cats feel happier and more comfortable at home!


 If you’re not sure about your cat’s behaviour, it’s a good start to be able to recognise the signs of shyness in cats. There are physical and behavioural signs that our cats might use to show us that they’re worried, nervous or shy:

  • Running away
  • Hiding
  • Cowering
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flattened ears

 Some cats might demonstrate these behaviours regularly, while others might only show them when exposed to a certain environment, event, or other trigger (like loud noises, unknown people, etc.). 


While there can be many reasons for shyness in cats, they can generally fall into three categories: previous negative experiences, a lack of socialisation, or the cat’s genetics.

Negative experiences

If cats have had bad experiences with people in the past, then they are understandably likely to be wary or scared of humans - especially those they don’t know. Being mistreated or harmed in the past can make them more cautious and more likely to react with shy or anxious behaviour.

Lack of socialisation

Kittens have a key socialisation period from the age of 2-7 weeks. If they aren’t exposed to enough people and environments (or if they don’t have enough positive experiences with them) during this time, this can result in shy or nervous cats as they grow older. 


Sometimes, a cat’s shyness isn’t a result of either of these reasons, and can simply be down to their genes, with some cats being more naturally predisposed to being cautious and reserved than others.


There are some key steps we can all follow to help a shy cat feel more comfortable, and these apply both for new cats - if you’re planning to adopt a shy cat and want to make sure they settle in and feel at home - and for existing pets who might need a little extra help to feel comfortable in specific situations.

Give them their space

The first thing to remember is to respect their space. Be patient, and never force a cat to interact if they don’t want to. Give them the freedom to choose for themselves. 

Provide hiding places

A range of cosy hiding places in your home will allow your cat to feel safe and retreat if they get worried. Whether it’s a cardboard box with a soft blanket inside, a bed tucked away in a quiet corner, hiding away in small spaces helps cats to feel safe and secure - and for shy cats this can be especially comforting!

Keep to a routine

Stick to daily routines, and limit changes in the home. This way, your cat will know what to expect and feel safer and more comfortable. Regular meal times, and set locations for beds, litter boxes and food and water bowls can help to reduce your cat’s stress levels.

Your cat’s the boss

Leave your cat in charge of their interactions with you and any guests, letting them choose to approach you first. Approaching cats directly can feel threatening, so let your cat get used to people by simply sitting near them quietly and calmly. Doing something else, like watching TV, reading or knitting, will take the focus away from them so they can get used to your presence without pressure or stress.


Making sure your cat feels safe and in control is really key to helping a shy cat feel more comfortable. The above is just intended as a guide, and if you’re worried about your cat’s shyness or behaviour, it’s always best to speak with their vet.