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Why has my cat suddenly become shy?

Cats can often be shy, timid creatures, often preferring to spend time alone and out of the way of their humans. However, this is not always the case, and it can be alarming to notice a sudden or gradual change in your cat’s personality.

If your cat was previously outgoing but has recently turned into a scaredy-cat, it is most likely caused by some kind of problem. By finding out the root cause, you should be able to isolate and fix the problem. This should give your cat their confidence back.

The most common causes of unusual shyness include:

Pain

Is caused by injury or illness. This is ancestral behaviour and is a defence mechanism designed to keep them away from predators when they are less able to run away. They will also hideaway when injured, as this weakness could cause them to lose territory or status. If you think this could be the cause of your cat’s shyness, you should seek the advice of your vet.
However, please bear in mind that cats can also be very good at hiding any illness. Again, this is an instinctive behaviour to ensure the cat does not appear weak to predators.
This may prevent them from hiding away when ill, so always be aware of any changes in your cat, however small.

Fear

Usually caused by loud noises. In a home environment, this is typically things like vacuums, washing machines, DIY and doorbells. Try to minimise your cat’s exposure to loud sounds. For example, shut your cat in another room while you are hoovering and make sure your doorbell is not set to an unnecessarily loud volume. If you know there will be road works at the front of your house, try to keep your cat in the rooms towards the back. Also, be mindful of other external noises, such as fireworks.

Change

Cats are creatures of habit, and any change in their environment or routine can easily upset them. If you are planning any changes, try to introduce them gradually. If the change is a new family member or pet, try to give your cat as much space as possible. They will be keen to get to know any new additions when they are good and ready, so do not try to force it.
If you have recently moved home, introduce your cat gradually to its new surroundings, perhaps only giving them access to part of the property at first. Make sure you provide them with their favourite toys & blankets etc, or even an item of your own clothing, to ensure they are surrounded by familiar scents.

Avoidence

If they are shy around just one particular person or area of your house or garden, it is probably because they have a negative association with it. If it is a person, it could be because they once raised their voice, or accidentally stood on their tail. As long as the person is careful not to frighten the cat again, they should be able to win back their trust over time. If it is an area in the house they are avoiding, it is most likely because of an association with a loud noise, again such as the washing machine. If there are areas in the garden they are avoiding, it is probably because they met an unwanted guest there.

Cats are sensitive creatures, and there is a multitude of other reasons that may cause shyness in your cat. Once you have discovered and removed the cause, it may take a little bit of time for your cat to get back to its old self. Be patient and keep relaxed as cats can sense their owner’s anxiety and this can make them worse. Keep reassuring your cat, and the shyness should subside.

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