Shyness in Pets

November 14th, 2019

Shy Pets

“Shyness” is a trait found in pets that are highly fearful. This may be a fear of strangers, places, sounds or movements.

Nature or Nurture?
Genetics play a big part in the temperament of pets. Cats and dogs have a genetic predisposition for either a shy or sociable personality. It is important to note that these predispositions do not dictate your pet’s behaviour forever. Animals can learn and adapt their behaviours.

Past experiences also have a big impact on how fearful a cat or dog may be. These past experiences may include:

  • Having a constantly stressed mother
  • Inadequate socializing as a puppy or kitten
  • Abuse or trauma i.e. bad mistreatment or road accident

A Happy Habitat
Before taking a shy pet home, it is important to question whether your house is the right home for them. Shy pets will not overcome their fears by throwing them in to the deep end. A noisy household with little space for the pet is probably not the best atmosphere for a shy pet. Instead, they need a quiet, relaxed atmosphere.

Handling Shyness
It is important to make your pet feel safe and comfortable. Providing your pet with a space of their own, in a quiet area will calm your pet and allow them to adapt to your house. Feeding your pet in this area will also increase their comfort. Make this place a safe zone that your pet can come back to when their fear increases. Over time, your pet will start to explore further and further out of their safe place.

Study your pet and try to interpret their body language. You should learn to read when they feel anxious, as they may not always run. Your pets coping method may be to freeze in shy situations. So you need to know when to remove them from a stressful situation.

Training your cat to be less shy will take time. Do not try to rush your pet into any situations as this will only set you back. Be patient, and move in your pet’s time.

Exercise such as walking your dog, and playing with pets can increase the trust they have for you. Creating a bond with your pet will decrease their fear for you, and in time situations you put them in- such as meeting new people. Grooming your pet is also another way of building trust between the both of you.

Praising your pet when they do something they would usually fear will help as your pet will then associate these activities with an enjoyable outcome. It is important however, to praise them calmly. Too much excitement can be overwhelming and cause more fear.

Surprisingly, other animals may provide comfort to your shy friend. Learning from more confident cats or dogs will help your pet get over their fear. Try to introduce a friends pet into their life, and remember to read your pet’s body language, and interpret how they feel.


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Petplan.

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