Q: I got my 12-year-old male Russian Blue when he was 5 months old. Ever since I brought him home, he spends 90 percent of his time in the closet, hidden behind stuff so you can’t see him. Five percent of the time he spends hidden in the garage. The last 5 percent of the time he spends eating and being with me. He sits in my lap and allows me to pet him. He’s sweet, but he’s so antisocial. He will not associate with anyone else who visits my home. Can you shed any light on his behavior?
A: There are many factors that could be causing your cat to act shy. He might not have been properly socialized with people as a kitten, or something traumatic might have happened to him that has resulted in his being afraid of people. Other animals in the household (if there are any) could also be scaring him. Or, he might be sensitive to loud noises and activity.
With work, patience and love, it is possible to increase his feeling of safety so that he spends more time with you and less time in the closet. Feed him his favorite treats and clicker train him to help strengthen the bond between you. Keeping a consistent feeding, play and clicker training schedule will also help him feel safe. Encourage him to spend more time in the house, and not in the garage, by providing warm, safe havens for him inside. Also make sure that he has tall cat trees he can climb. Some cat trees have covered boxes at the top that cats love.
Patience is important. You are operating on the cat’s schedule. Don’t force him to be social by trying to pick him up or by petting him when he’s feeling antisocial. Enticing him with treats and consistent clicker training will help him to feel secure. As he starts to feel a little more confident, he will spend more time near you and eventually will let you stroke him for longer periods of time.
Don’t expect him to change into a people-centric cat. Hopefully, he will gradually lose some of his shyness and see the benefits of living in a warm house instead of a cold garage.