Sometimes depending on the situation, a new kitten can be very anxious or shy the first couple weeks being introduced into a new home.
Many factors can contribute to this, either the individual personality of the kitten, or just the kitten having an emotional reaction to being removed from the only family they know, their mom, siblings, human caretakers (breeders), traveling on a plane or car in a crate/cage, and then being placed into a whole new home- with new smells, new sounds, new temperatures, humidity, new humans, new additional pets - everything. It can be VERY scary to a new kitten and the reaction of a kitten being scared or anxious is very normal, especially for the earlier generation Savannah Kittens with more wild blood.
Taming an anxious, shy, or scared kitten is possible!
The following steps can help you turn that frightened kitten into a new furry friend!
Let Him/Her make the first move
Do not quite ignore the kitten but do not over-stimulate the kitten. Let him/her come to you at their own time. You can play with the kitten and feed them, but do not approach too fast or too much. The kitten could see it as a threat. You want the kitten to come to you at their own pace and build their trust with you so they do not get scared. Cats are animals that seek pleasure and attention.
2. When you are ready to approach and show trust
Most of the time, if a kitten is hissing, spatting, batting, or cowers with their ears back in defense, it is because they are scared, not because they are aggressive. The best thing to do in this situation is to sometimes just stay close, maybe be on your phone, watch a tv show, do something while you are on their level close to them so they can see that you are not a threat. If you put your hand/finger out for them to smell you and they hiss, instead of pulling your hand back as a reaction of yourself being scared, either leave your hand there, or next to something close, or slowly back it away. Try not to react. It is very unlikely the kitten will bite you.
3. Keep Him/Her coming back for more
Provide relaxed, non-threatening enrichment to ensure that the kitten enjoys spending time with you and keeps coming back. If they are use to you being around and leaving them alone sometimes, but see that when you come in the room you play with them and bring out their fun toys, they will associate you with the feeling of fun and play time. Sometimes, you will want to play with toys slowly, don't always fling a wand toy around vigorously. Slowly let a feather wand toy slide across the floor in front of them or have it hide behind something so the kitten's instincts are stimulated so they forget they were ever scared. Another great bonding moment is when you bring in food! Most Kittens and Cats are food driven and will be so happy when you bring in food and associate you with their care taker. Soon he/she will start to be happy to see you come into the room and will want to come near you to play with them more and more. We recommend providing treats and toys to encourage the kitten to connect with you more one-on-one.
4. Respect His/Her space
After you have welcomed your new anxious/shy kitten into your home, there is still work to be done. The kitten will be understandably nervous and require a place to hide when overwhelmed. This will help prevent the kitten from feeling cornered or trapped. If they are not given the option to run and hide, they will be more apt to turn their scared feelings into feelings to fight back instead. They will feel they are so scared there’s no other option than to defend themselves. We do not suggest letting the kitten be able to run and hide under a bed or in a closet or behind anything. Providing too much space can be overwhelming to a new kitten. It is very important that the kitten initially has a small room with food, water and a litter box. Make sure your quarantine room, or your bedroom has no place for the kitten to hide and never come out. What we are talking about is more like a cat tree with a a small den or box with cut out holes. Make sure to kitty-proof the room by removing anything fragile or potentially harmful such as wires that could be chewed.
5. Consider a calming remedy to help Him/Her with the transition.
Providing a soothing remedy like catnip, pheromone sprays or plug-ins, calming supplements etc. can be very helpful! Using behavior modifiers like Feliway, Rescue Remedy, or CBD oils/chews are products that can help calm and comfort kittens anxiety.
6. And most importantly. Be Patient!
While some cats and kittens can be tamed in a matter of weeks, it can even take months before a kitten can completely trust you and come around to wanting your love and affection. That is why it is sooo important to do as much as you can to try and bond and understand your kitten when you first bring them home. All cats can be tamed, it is just a matter of you being patient, understanding, stick to a schedule, play with the kitten or be there with the kitten a lot throughout the day, feed them until they are full, respect their natural needs, interact every day and provide a lot of calming sounds and noises and using a soft tone of voice when speaking to him/her. Never scold the kitten or you can lose all of the progress you have made.