There are a few techniques, which aren’t rocket-science but will enable you to calm almost any cat, in almost any situation. It doesn’t matter what breed they are or if they have a particularly aggressive personality. The tips below just work.
I’ve had cats in my life for around 40 years now and 25 of these have been with magnificent Maine Coons, two of which I still own (Harry and Charlie, brothers and 14 years of age). There are numerous reasons why your cat may feel particularly anxious but usually, it’s related to their environment or their history. Maybe you’ve moved house or changed things around (cats don’t really like change), maybe another cat (or dog) has been in and has left their scent around their home. There could be numerous reasons why your cat doesn’t seem as comfortable as it should.
Or, alternatively, it might just be an aggressive cat. Perhaps it wasn’t handled and socialized properly as a kitten or it is a nervous rescue cat with an unknown history. Sometimes it’s hard to really know.
Whatever the reason, you want your cat to trust you. The tricks and tips I describe below will send signals to your cat that tell it you are not a threat. You will be showing it that you mean it no harm. Your cat should relax a little and you should see the results of this immediately.
How To Calm A Cat
It’s not really that complex. All you need to do is behave as a cat would towards an aggressive cat if it didn’t want to appear as a threat. We’re applying natural cat behavior to the situation.
1) Blink Slowly Towards a Cat
If you only take one thing away from this post, this should be it. It’s amazing how many cat-lovers I know that have never heard of this technique! You will notice if you look for it, that when you look at your cat, they may blink slowly and possibly then look away. This is your cat telling you that you shouldn’t see them as a threat in any way. If you have a cat, go and try this now.
So, what you want to do is quite simple really. The nervous cat will look at you to try and determine whether you are a threat or not. If there is any doubt, they will assume you are so what you need to do is convince you are not. So, when they stare at you, perform the following:
- Slowly close your eyes whilst still facing them and keep them closed for about 2 seconds.
- Open them as slowly as you closed them.
- Wait a couple of seconds and divert your attention to something else, but do it all slowly – no sudden movements.
Repeat these steps every single time your cat looks at you and remember to keep things nice and slow.
As I said above, if you’re going to take just one thing from this article or just don’t have time to read anymore – just take this one point on-board. I have been using this technique for my own cats for years but also for other cats. When you do it you can almost see them becoming less stressed and anxious right in front of you!
2) Don’t Stare – Occasionally Look Away
Never stare at a cat that’s feeling stressed and anxious. This feeds nicely into the last point actually. Look at them, yes, but don’t stare at them. If they are looking at you, by all means, look at them, but do occasionally look away. Keep everything really controlled and slow, no sudden movements.
What this is demonstrating to your cat is that your focus is not directly on them, you are showing them that you are not considering attacking them and you aren’t particularly interested.
3) Yawning When Looking At Your Cat
If an aggressive cat is staring-down another cat, you will never see it yawn. By performing this in front of your cat (I bet you’re yawning right now, just thinking about it) you will be demonstrating your lack of threat.
Watch your cat’s reaction when you do this. They will focus entirely on you as you do it and combine this with a slow-blink and occasionally looking away. By yawning, your eyes will shut as you do it, which will only help your cause. Try not to make a loud noise like some people do when they yawn!
4) Roll Onto Your Back
When a cat rolls onto its back, it is not an invitation for you to tickle them! That may be what it looks like but don’t be fooled! Take a look at our Harry below:
I mean, just look at him! With his little paws tucked in you would think that this is a certain invite for you to give him a little cheeky tickle. But don’t be fooled! If you fall into their trap (which I bet you already have done) then your hands will be grabbed by their paws in a matter of nanoseconds and you will not come out of it without some damage!
What a cat is actually doing here acting in a submissive manner in front of you. Often they will do this as you approach and it is a sign that they trust you and don’t see you as a threat in any way.
So, that’s great – but what does this have to do with you calming them down? You probably wouldn’t see this behavior on a cat you’re trying to relax anyway – so mimic their behavior!
Don’t try and do it too close to your cat but relatively near them (they obviously have to see you otherwise you’re going to look pretty stupid) slowly roll onto your back and impersonate Harry in the picture above! Yes, you’re going to feel silly but what you’re doing is showing that you’re no threat to them. This really works so if you can get over how you might look, do give it a go!
5) Let Them Come To You
Don’t try and force the issue with a cat. Give them space and don’t crowd them. They will feel intimidated if they keep getting approached by people. You will be able to do this eventually but not at the outset if they are very anxious. Always let a cat make the first move. Just get down on their level, follow the ideas I’ve mentioned above and don’t pay them much attention. The idea behind this is that they will become more comfortable with you over time.
So, just sit on the floor, minding your own business for a bit. Then, after a while, get up and just get on with stuff. Repeat and eventually, you will find they become more comfortable in your presence. This is because they no longer will be able to associate you with any kind of threat as they will have become more accustomed to you.
6) Don’t Follow Them
If cats don’t want to do something, don’t try and force them. Don’t pick them up and plonk them somewhere if you don’t think they want to be there. If you’re having fun with them and they wander off, don’t follow them! If they want to leave then there’s a reason for it. If for whatever reason, they want to go somewhere that they’ll feel more secure they need to know that they can do that, alone.
Remember, a cat is allowed to follow you (which, if you have a Maine Coon you will be well aware of) but you aren’t allowed to follow them! Rules are rules.
7) Remain Calm
Cats can become nervous easily and although some are more nervous than others, generally they don’t feel comfortable with people who make a lot of noise. This is the reason why they are usually not so comfortable with kids! Cats don’t like unpredictable movements combined with noise and well, this kinda describes children perfectly, right?
When near a nervous cat, you should always remain calm – no sudden movements and no loud noises. This is why training children is so important. Teach your children about your cat’s feelings and needs and how they should behave around them. A child will often forget (or ignore you) and run around anyway but over time, hopefully, they’ll get the message!
It won’t be easy and it won’t always work but if you can communicate the importance of this to your kids, especially if a cat is nervous – it will really help them out!
8) Bribe Them With Treats
I don’t mean bribe your kids 🙂 Although that does sometimes work! I mean occasionally you can improve the bond between yourself and your cat if you have a little incentive. Keep some treats handy and if you’re sitting nearby and the nervous cat doesn’t seem too keen on approaching, try enticing them with some treats. Put some on the floor near them and if they seem interested and willing, try and get them to take one from your hands.
If you’re wondering what treats I use, there are not many that have been consistently popular with my cats – they do love these fishy flavored treats – and don’t seem to get bored of them (opens in a new window)
9) Give Them Somewhere To Go
A nervous cat will want to be able to escape sometimes and climbing somewhere high is often appealing to them. Being up high and able to see what’s going on below gives cats a sense of safety. One of the best things you can do is get them a cat tree. This will allow them to climb and effectively hide and has multiple scratching posts built-in.
Here’s a very popular cat tree that gets absolutely thousands of excellent reviews on Amazon (opens in a new window) – these are not as expensive as you might think!
10) Use Technology
A cat bases a lot of its security on the scents around its home. Unfamiliar scents or particularly, scents of other animals can prove a real hindrance to your cat’s progress.
I’ve had mixed results with this method but I’ve heard so many good things about its use that I simply have to include it here. You can buy a spray that you squirt liberally around your home. This scent can make your cat feel more calm and relaxed than it would usually. This is great for environments where other animals may have been – or indeed just before your new kitten enters your home for the first time.
If you’re interested in checking this out then the only one I really recommend is Comfort Zone which is currently available as a starter pack with diffuser and refill. Click the link to read reviews on Amazon (opens in a new tab). It’s not too expensive so if it doesn’t work for you, you haven’t really lost much in trying!
These tips really do work. I know – I’ve been using them the best part of my life! I love cats and I have always enjoyed discovering more about their psyche. I want to understand why some of them are more nervous than others. I love the process you go through when a cat initially doesn’t trust you and you persevere to slowly start to see some results.
Any of the above tips will have an impact but I usually combine a few of them at the same time. For instance, slow blinking followed by a big yawn and then look away for a bit before doing it again.