Adopting a Shy Cat or Kitten

Since we rescue cats and kittens from a variety of perilous situations, some of them come to us frightened, abused, traumatized, or feral. We can't save them all, but we try not to turn them away just because they may be harder to place than the cute, cuddly tame kitten that was born in the back bedroom.

People may hesitate to consider adopting a cat that is deemed "shy" or "spooky" or "fearful," thinking it will never be a good companion. In reality, although these cats are bound to have a more difficult transition to a new home, they can become the best cats of all. With patience and kindness and love, they often become extremely attached to their humans, and can be exceptionally companionable.

Shyness is subjective. It may describe cats whose personalities run the gamut from nervous to terrified. We try to only adopt out cats who have become well-adjusted in their foster homes and can reasonably be expected to adapt to a new home, but it's impossible to predict exactly how they will react in a new situation. They may adjust much more quickly than we anticipate (overnight sometimes!), or they may not adjust at all. We always hope for the best, but not every home ends up being right for every cat. Of course, if it doesn't work out, the cat comes back to his foster home, hopefully to try again with more success later.
Some things to expect when adopting a shy cat:

The Special Case of Feral Cats

A feral cat is one who has reverted to a wild state. Usually the term is used to denote a cat that was born outside where it had no human contact, although some people refer to stray cats who have become fearful of humans as feral. In either case, although they have the wariness of a natural cat, these cats don't usually thrive outside on their own.

In some situations, we may try to return a feral cat who has been spayed/neutered and vaccinated to a colony where it will be fed and cared for. But that isn't always an option, so we may try to tame it and place it. These cats, as you can well imagine, are more difficult to find homes for. And yet, when they have adjusted to their new environment, former feral cats seem to be the smartest, and the funniest, and the most grateful for having a home.

Shy cats often do much better with other cats for moral support. If you can adopt two cats together who are already friends, or a shy cat together with a confident companion, it will make the transition to a new home much easier for them, and probably for you.

A shy cat is not for everyone. They may not do well with small children, although that depends on the child. They do take more patience, and gentle handling. They tend to do much better in a quiet, consistent environment than in a noisy place with lots of changes.

People who have adopted shy cats and bond with them get great satisfaction from the progress they see, even if it's slow and gradual. They aren't for someone who wants a bold cat who will be out greeting strangers the first day. But for someone who has the patience to develop a relationship slowly, and who feels a thrill of pride and joy at seeing their little furr-friend becoming more affectionate and outgoing day-by-day, a shy cat is a great choice.

Take a look at a couple of "shy" cats (former ferals) who are living the good life in their adoptive home!

Coming Soon! Tips on introducing a shy cat to your home.

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Last updated 23 Feb 2001 jld