I have been cat sitting for well over a decade now and during this time I have met many cats all with individual personalities. As a rule of thumb, especially for cats I am meeting for the first time, I like to take the “no pressure” approach, which means never forcing contact with a cat that doesn’t want it. I let them come to me.
This is Jack enjoying ear rubs
He loves to play and decides when he wants to interact with you. He gives me the look and a little chirp that says, “Get me my mouse toy!” A favorite game involves me tossing the toy and Jack doing acrobatic moves and laps up and down the hall to retrieve it. Playtime has noticeably made him feel comfortable enough around me to now enjoy closer contact like ear and under arm rubs, chin scratches and even gentle brushing. I noticed he is less tense, he seeks me out and I can pick him up without any struggle.
Other signs of his confidence came when Jack started rubbing against my legs, he would look me directly in the eyes while gently blinking (doing the slow eye blink back to cats also helps). I found that getting down to floor or cats level, is also less intimidating.
The big breakthrough came when I quietly sat with Jack just after playtime and I saw his paws making biscuits. I stayed a short distance away so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed and he responded by walking over and laying down in the crook of my arm while purring – I didn’t dare move. This would be the first time he did this.
He then decided to perch on my leg, eyes soft, relaxed ears, tail and body – this was a cat at ease, It was priceless. I was just as happy as Jack, actually maybe more.
Patience, paying attention to body language and importantly play (in Jacks case) has helped me bond with this shy sweet cat. I know he is having a fun and positive experience just like his sister Ginger.
Remember every cat and situation is unique but understanding the basics and using positive reinforcement such as play helps.
Looking for other tips on how to bond with a shy cat?