Felines have a strong tendency to give off an air of aloofness, but truly shy cats can be all but invisible– making themselves very scarce by running, and even hiding from their owners. At some time during the day, even the most sociable cats want to be alone and will find a place to seclude themselves for a while. The truly shy ones, on the other hand, may spend most of their time out of sight. A cat that spends most of her time under the bed isn’t enjoying life, and may not be getting enough food, water, attention, or exercise.

Some breeds are more reserved than others, and some cats, usually those who have not been around many humans, tend to be people-shy. In some cases, the cat may be frightened of certain types of people – children or men, for example.

Skittish or shy cats may just need a little love and attention. Give a shy cat attention but on her terms. Visit with your cat while she’s in her favorite hiding place. Talk to her softly and stroke her lightly on the head. You can even feed her there if she doesn’t come out to eat. Give her the space she needs, but reassure her with your tone and actions that you mean no harm. Socializing a shy cat can take weeks, or even months, so be patient.

Cats are naturally nocturnal, but if your cat rarely comes out during the day, don’t assume she’s not prowling around the house at night. Just because you find her in the morning in the same hiding place that you left her in the night before doesn’t mean she spent the whole night there. To help a shy cat feel more secure, try waiting until nightfall. Turn off all the lights and pull the shades. Then, wait and see if she is more willing to venture out in your presence.

Petting, soft talk, and treats can help coax a “scaredy-cat” into relaxing more around humans. If there’s something that your cat particularly loves, be it a specific food, a rub behind the ear, or a good brushing; reserve it for occasions of social interaction. 

Don’t force the issue of socializing your cat. If you try to force unwanted attention, you may actually make her more reclusive – or risk being scratched or bitten. Let your shy kitty build confidence in her own time. If a normally sociable cat starts acting antisocial or begins to hide a lot, notify your vet in case her shyness is actually a symptom of illness.