Flip is the first cat we adopted when we moved to this area. He is a gentleman with a heart that is as sweet as pie. Whenever I call his name, he responds in elation. He loves my attention and often stands by my feet or with his paws on my legs, looking up at me, waiting for me to pet him.
Flip never had any issue with me, but he was a little afraid of my husband when he moved in. In fact, he was so timid with men that even a slight movement from my hubby could startle him.
Why are some cats so afraid of men?
- The way men talk - Cats like many other animals such as dogs, love a high-pitched human voice or "baby talk". In fact, it is referred to as a Minnie Mouse voice at many animal shelters where people find that speaking in a soft, gentle, "puss puss" voice can relax an animal and let down the guard even for a disgruntled, distrusting cat. Cats communicate with each other in their high-pitched meows because their hearing is tuned to a higher range. They only start growling when they feel unease and the need for self-defense. Naturally, men speak in a deeper, lower, and more stern tone that is sometimes equated with growls by many shy cats. My husband failed miserably when he attempted to raise his tone and only found himself talking like a pirate, frightening the cat further away from him.
- Men are naturally rough - Cats are extremely sensitive to movements, vibrations and sounds. They can detect your tiptoes and hear your whispers. Often time you may find your efforts futile if you try to walk up behind a cat for a friendly surprise. You get caught almost every time by their big eyes or sharp hearing. They are not like many dog breeds that love playing rough and making grunts. Cats are very vigilant and they tend to attach themselves to soft things such as blankets or pillows. If you have not noticed, many cats start kneading, pumping their paws against any soft fabric or people they like in many cases to show affection. Some cats may like to be held or pet, but none likes to be man-handled. Perhaps their fear of men has to do with men's nature of being masculine and rough.
- Men are usually taller than women - A 6'4" guy with a deep voice and heavy breathing may come off a bit too much for some shy cats. I would be scared if there was a 20 feet giant standing in front of me, flipping his arms or stretching his legs. Not a pretty sight.
- Cats remember their past - Perhaps the most common cause of their repulsion of men comes from their past experience. Cats have excellent long term memories. Unhappy or traumatic events with men in the past can formulate fear or rage against them. On the other hand, if a cat has never been socialized with men, the cat may find men threatening and uncomfortably strange. Imagine you were faced with an alien species that you have never met or heard of, you would be sweating in your palms too.
What can we do to acclimate a shy kitty to men?
No worries, guys! As long as you can be patient, it can be done. I will share with you a few techniques. They worked for my husband.
- Speak like a cat - Since we know that cats are attracted to "puss puss" voice, so start talking like a baby. I know it is silly, but this can do wonders for your relationship with a shy cat, but do practice your voice beforehand.
- Feed your cat his/her favorite food - It is the most effective way to gain trust from them because basically you are establishing yourself as their care taker and provider. It's a huge assurance for them to see that you are in fact someone they can trust.
Play with your cat - Find a toy that works for both you and your cat. There are so many choices out there. Personally, I find chewy mice and feather wands (with an attached bell) work exceptionally well for us to interact with our cats.
- Approach your cat - Get down to your cat's level or sit on the floor, so your statute won't be too intimidating to your cat. Move gently and softly around your cat. Before you start, point your index finger at the cat's nose and let him sniff. Once he is rubbing his face against your finger, it means he has accepted you and you are allowed to pet him. Ask a lady friend to hold the cat if necessary, but never force the cat to interact with you against his will. Let the experience be as easy and smooth as possible.
- Bond with your cat - When your cat is lounging on the couch, go ahead and pet him. Use the approaching technique before you start petting and bonding. Once he gets very comfortable with you, you can skip the approaching technique.