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Home > Cats > How to Build Confidence in a Cat: 11 Vet-Approved Tips

How to Build Confidence in a Cat: 11 Vet-Approved Tips

Calico ragdoll cat on the carpet

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Have you ever owned a cat that is scared of everything? If so, you are not alone. Many cat owners have trouble with their feline friends being terrified of seemingly innocuous things like going outside, meeting new people, or even loud noises. While it may be difficult to understand why your cat is scared all the time, there are some things you can do to help build their confidence.

Cats are often regarded as independent creatures that don’t need humans. However, cats do form strong bonds with their owners and become very attached to them in their own way. In order to have a happy, healthy, and self-assured cat, it is important to use your relationship with them to build up their courage. In order to do this, reducing stress for the cat plays a big role. There are a few easy ways to do this.divider-cat

Before You Get Started

Before you begin modifications for your cat to be more confident, it’s important to understand that while sometimes worried cats are withdrawn and shy, they may also be combative or display other behavior problems like inappropriate scratching. These negative behaviors, while troubling, are usually signs of fear. For example, hissing or growling may be a sign that your cat feels threatened and afraid.

With patience and positive reinforcement, you can help your cat build confidence and overcome their fears. Through love and understanding, many seemingly hostile kitties can warm up, calm down, and become beloved family members over time. It is however important to note that experiences within the early first few weeks of life will determine a cat’s confidence with the world around it and is not easily changed.

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The 11 Tips on Building Confidence in a Cat

1. Be Consistent & Predictable

Cats are creatures of habit, and they thrive on routine. When it comes to addressing behavior problems, consistency is key. Be reliable and predictable in the way you address challenging behaviors. If you ignore certain actions one day but punish them the next, your cat will become confused and stressed. This also means that every member of your family needs to be consistent with rules and expectations. If one person shouts at the cat for scratching furniture and another person ignores it, the cat will be very confused.

The best way to avoid this is to have a family meeting about how you are going to approach helping your kitty. By being consistent, you will help your cat feel comfortable and secure in your home.

calico cat in house backyard by wooden deck with owner sitting
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

2. Analyze Your Own Behavior

When building confidence in your cat, analyze your own behavior. Are your actions inadvertently exacerbating their fears? One way to tell is by paying attention to how they react when you approach them. If they seem tense or nervous, back off and give them some space. If you find that you’re constantly getting on their nerves, here are some things to consider: are you respecting their autonomy and need for independence? If not you may be making them feel trapped and uncomfortable.

If you want to help your cat feel more confident, it starts with you. Learning about cat behavior, signs of anxiety, and body language are important first steps.


3. Feed On Time, Every Time

If you want your cat to be confident, then you need to stick to a feeding routine. Cats feel secure when they know when they’re going to eat and how much they’re going to get. Providing delicious food on a reliable schedule is an easy way to build rapport with your kitty. Of course, there will be times when you can’t stick to the schedule (like when you’re traveling or if there’s an emergency) but try to keep those instances to a minimum. Your cat will appreciate the predictability and it will help them feel more secure.

orange and white cat eating on an elevated feeder
Image Credit: Princess Anmitsu, Shutterstock

4. Try Not to Inhibit Natural Curiosity

One of the most important things you can do when building confidence in your cat is to never inhibit their curiosity. A curious cat is a confident cat, and a confident cat is a happy cat. Give your cat plenty of opportunities to explore. Allow them to roam freely through your home as much as possible. For many cats, boosting their confidence can be as easy as encouraging them to thoroughly explore their world in their own time.

Cats are territorial and they build up a map of their territory by smelling, listening, tasting, watching, and touching. As long as cats aren’t putting themselves or anyone else in danger, let them roam around and explore the house however they like. Cats love to climb and explore, so giving them plenty of opportunities to do so will help boost their confidence in their environment.


5. Create a Safe Space

Cats are not naturally confident animals. In the wild, they spend most of their time hiding from predators. When building confidence in your cat, by creating a safe space they can retreat to, you are giving them a place to feel secure. A safe space for your cat can be as simple as a cardboard box with a hole cut out for them to enter and exit.

Place the box in a quiet area of your home, away from noise and people, where they can see what’s going on but not be disturbed. Put their favorite toy or blanket inside the box so it smells like home.

Most cats feel safe perched up high on top of cupboards, wall shelves or window sills. Some prefer to be down low under objects or hiding inside a cozy pile of blankets. Offer different kinds of safe space for your cat to use.

cat sitting inside diy cardboard box toy
Image Credit: Cat Box, Shutterstock

6. Teach Them to Hunt Through Play

Play is an important part of a cat’s life. It helps them to burn off excess energy, hone their hunting skills, provides them with mental stimulation, and builds their sense of self-assuredness. A successful predator dominates their territory and feeling as though they hunt well will give your cat a sense of security.

When teaching your cat to hunt through play, there are a few activities you can engage in to help build their confidence. One way to help build your cat’s confidence is by using a toy that simulates prey. This could be something like a small stuffed animal or a ping-pong ball. Start by playing with the toy yourself, making it move around in an erratic pattern. This will help capture your cat’s attention and encourage them to stalk and pounce on the toy. As your cat becomes more confident with this game, you can start adding obstacles for them to jump over or under.

Importantly, you must allow your cat to win frequently so they can gain a sense of mastery and control. Never use your hands or wiggling fingers to entice your cat to play.


7. Don’t Make Loud Noises

When building confidence in your cat, avoid making loud noises. Cats have sensitive hearing and can be easily scared off by loud or sudden noises. If you want your cat to feel comfortable and confident around you, it’s important to make sure that they feel safe in their environment. Creating a calm and quiet atmosphere will help your cat relax and feel secure.

If you have a busy, noisy home—either temporarily for a party, or more permanently in a house with young children—an anxious cat will have a tougher time gaining confidence and they will most certainly need a safe place to retreat to.

scared British blue-point cat hiding under the bed
Image Credit: zossia, Shutterstock

8. Respect Their Autonomy & Pay Attention to Body Language

Respecting your cat’s autonomy is crucial when trying to build confidence. Don’t force them into situations they’re not comfortable with. Paying attention to their body language is important; if they seem tense or anxious, give them some space and let them come to you on their own terms. With a little patience and understanding, you can help your cat thrive in any situation.


9. Try Using Pheromones

When building confidence in your cat, you could try using a pheromone spray diffuser. A pheromone spray or diffuser is a device that releases natural chemicals that help to calm and reassure your cat. There are many different types of pheromone products on the market, so it’s important to choose one that’s right for your cat. Some diffusers release a continuous stream of pheromones, while others release them intermittently.

With a spray, you decide when and where to release the product. Pheromone products can be an effective way to help your cat feel more confident and relaxed. If you’re not sure which type of product to choose, ask your veterinarian for advice.

Feliway Optimum Enhanced Calming 30 Day Diffuser for Cats


10. Provide Plenty of Perches

Perches offer cats a vantage point from which to survey their surroundings. This can help reduce stress levels and make them feel more comfortable in new or unfamiliar environments, helping them feel more secure in their environment and giving them a place to retreat when they feel overwhelmed. Perches can give cats a sense of control and power. When they feel like they are in charge of their situation, they are more likely to relax and be themselves.


11. Make Adequate Resources Available

Cats are not always social creatures and most will prefer to live by themselves. However, when bringing a new cat into a home with other felines, it is important to remember that this process doesn’t always go smoothly. You need to make sure that there are enough resources available so that the new cat can feel confident and comfortable.

This means having enough food and water bowls, litter boxes, scratching posts, beds, and toys so that each cat has their own space and can avoid any potential conflict. By providing adequate resources, you will help your new cat settle in and feel like part of the family in no time.

two cats on a cat tree
Image Credit: Arina Krasnikova, Pexels

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Conclusion

In conclusion, building confidence in a cat is not as difficult as one might think. Start by making your home as stress free and cat friendly as possible. With some time, patience, and love, many cats can blossom into confident felines. It is important to go at the cat’s pace and to never force them to do anything they are not comfortable with. With time, your bond will strengthen, and your cat will start to trust you. Never give up on your kitty, and they will eventually learn to be comfortable or at least more tolerant of new situations.


Featured Image Credit: Bianka Kovacs, Shutterstock

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