Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shy cat introduction dos and don'ts

Shy cat Popoki held in place with a hand

Pretty Popoki the exotic shorthair cat has been part of this household for close to a month now, and she has completely recovered from her cold. That means she is ready to start meeting and greeting the other residents of this household.

But, like many shy cats, Popoki seems either baffled or terrified by the other animals that live here. Her introduction needs to follow a very specific set of instructions, so I can ensure that she integrates without causing any tension and/or fighting.

So here are a few dos and don'ts I'm following.

Do: Create a safe space. 

If I plopped Popoki down in the middle of a room and hoped for the best, she would probably panic. And a cat that panics tends to run, which leads to chasing, which leads to fighting.... You can see how that whole thing would play out.

Popoki the shy cat in her safe space behind the gate
Can you see Popoki? (Hint: She's by the scratcher!)
A safe space allows her to get comfortable within the house, so she is less likely to panic and cause that nasty chain reaction.

Don't: Make the rest of the house invisible. 

If I kept the door to Popoki's safe room closed, she would be quite comfortable in there and never venture out into the rest of the house at all. So her door needs to be both secure and see-through. I want her to know that her world expands beyond the walls of her room. A baby gate works well for this purpose, but Liam's dog crate works pretty well, too.

Do: Lavish attention. 

Popoki may be shy, and I may have to do some coaxing before she'll appear for attention. But, all that work is worth it. Within a few minutes of attention and cuddles, she turns into a purring machine. She enjoys focused attention, even if she's not confident enough to ask for it.

Shy cats can be affectionate
A snuggle selfie.

And to make those attention sessions part of her introduction process, I am petting the other cats before I pet her, and then I pet the other cats when I'm done with her, too. That scent intermingling helps everyone to get acquainted.

Don't: Allow for uncontrolled interactions. 

Popoki is super shy, but many of the other resident cats are not. Maggie, for example, has been eager to eat Popoki's food, play with her toys, sleep in her bed and otherwise make herself known to the newbie. Maggie is not aggressive and she certainly means no harm. But this sort of behavior can seem threatening and/or terrifying if you are shy.

I allow interactions on either side of a barrier. Like this. Popoki is relaxed and in the middle of the room, and Maggie is right up by the gate.

Shy cat and bold cat separated by a gate

I even encourage visits like this with treats and brushing and toys. As long as everyone is relaxed, everything is fine.

But I make sure that there are no nose-to-nose or paw-to-paw visits unless I am right there. I don't want any fighting.

Do: Be patient.

While adopting a shy cat can be incredibly rewarding, especially when you know that the newbie and your residents will be BFFs, shy cats integrate at a glacial pace. They need to investigate everything before they decide to interact, and that means introductions move like molasses. It's not something that can be rushed. Just embrace the progress as you see it.

So that's it! If I missed any tips you have used with your shy residents, drop me a note in the comments! I'd love to hear your hacks.

1 comment:

  1. Those are great tips. I wish everyone followed them. When someone just tosses a new one into the bunch, there is usually trouble. She is adorable :)