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How Do I Get a Scared Kitten to Trust Me? 11 Expert Tips

Krysha Thayer

By Krysha Thayer

woman holding a homeless kitten outdoors

While adopting a kitten is exciting, it’s also a lot of responsibility. One of those responsibilities is building a relationship with them. Most kittens are anxious when coming to a new home. After all, there are new surroundings and many new people. New sounds, new things to explore, and so many new things to learn—you’d be scared too!

To help your scared kitten adjust, you’ll need to get them to trust you. Below, we have 11 tips to help you build that trust.

The 11 Tips to Get a Scared Kitten to Trust You

1. Minimize Noise

Kittens are often nervous around loud sounds, especially sirens and fireworks. While you may not be able to do much about those types of sounds outside of your control, you can help minimize other types of sounds such as the vacuum cleaner, loud banging in the kitchen, and those from children. If you must vacuum, try to move the kitten to another room far away from where you will be cleaning so the sound is muffled.

Allow the kitten a way to move away from the sounds and come out to explore only if they are curious about them.

American shorthair kitten is on the hands of the owner
Image Credit: Top Photo Engineer, Shutterstock

2. Use a Soft Voice

Loud yelling, even if the words are not said in anger, can be perceived as threatening, especially to a small kitten. They can be even more threatening to a kitten who is new to your home, unsure of their surroundings, and does not know everyone in the home very well. Remind everyone to speak in a normal tone when around the kitten and to speak in a softer tone when speaking directly to them.

Not only will this help to keep them calm and adjust to the home, but also help to build trust with them.

3. Play with Them

Kittens love to play! However, every kitten is unique in what toys they prefer to play with. If they seem shy about playing with a certain type of toy, you may want to try something different. Be consistent, even if they don’t seem to open up at first. Keep trying and they will see that you really do want to play.

Try toys that put some distance between you at first, like those on a wand. Slowly bring them closer to you with more toys and you will build that trust.

woman playing with kitten
Image Credit: uzhursky, Shutterstock

4. Let Them Come to You

As your kitten watches you from afar, they will get to know you. You may not even see them watching you go about many of your daily activities. If you catch them watching you, don’t call attention to it. Instead, let them slowly build the courage to come closer as they watch. When playing, instead of picking them up, sit stationary on the floor and call them toward you or encourage them to come forward with a toy or treat.

The idea is to let them come to you instead of forcing them to do something they may not be ready to do yet.

5. Respect Their Space

If they are not ready to come to you, that’s okay. Every kitten will build trust in their own time, and it may take some kittens longer than others. They may also build trust with one person in the home faster than others. Be sure they have a safe space they can go to if they are feeling anxious and respect that space.

If they are hiding under the couch or the bed, for instance, let them stay there until they are ready to come out, and don’t force them to come out if they aren’t ready to. They are hiding for a reason.

kitten playing under a blanket
Image Credit: Julia Naether, Shutterstock

6. Reward Positive Behavior

When your kitten decides to come out and explore, reward them! If they will let you give them attention, be sure to do so, but gently and using a calm voice. If they don’t let you come near them yet, set out a few treats for them to find, encouraging them to come closer to you.

Rewarding their good behavior and their courage with positive reinforcement will help build a closer bond that will last for years. You should have everyone in the home reward this behavior so that they establish a positive relationship with all members of the household.

7. Let Them Smell Things

Kittens are curious and are likely to get to know their new surroundings with their keen sense of smell. If you find them exploring the home, sniffing about, don’t discourage it by distracting them. Let them go about their business. You may even want to set things out that they can smell. Blankets that have been slept with a couple of times are a great place to curl up in and hide while allowing a kitten to adjust to an owner’s scent.

If possible, reduce the amount of “extra” scents in the home, like candles and incense, while your kitten is adjusting.

Black kitten smelling flower in the yard
Image Credit: NANCY AYUMI KUNIHIRO, Shutterstock

8. Use Calming Pheromones

If your kitten is acting aggressively toward you or anyone in the home, using calming pheromones may help. These pheromones calm their initial anxiety so you can create a connection with them and build trust. Once you’ve established trust, these pheromones may no longer be necessary. However, they are an excellent tool in helping kittens adjust to a new environment if they are receptive to them.

They come in several forms, from sprays to collars, so you can find one that works best. If you have other pets in the home, a diffuser may even help calm everyone’s nerves so they can adjust.

9. Be Patient and Consistent

Building trust takes time, whether you are a cat, a dog, or a human. This process won’t happen overnight. You may not even see progress for several days, and that’s okay. Be consistent with offering treats, sitting down to play, and talking with your new kitten, so they know they are in a safe space and can trust you.

Eventually, that bond will form and the time you’ve spent will be well worth it. Be patient and you will see them open up to you.

frightened kitten in the arms of the physician of the shelter
Image Credit: Okssi, Shutterstock

10. Never Force Them

It’s easy to become impatient and force your kitten to interact with you or others in the home before they are ready to. Forcing them can do more damage than good, though. By forcing them to interact with you if they don’t first trust you, you can create a lasting impression that you are someone that they can no longer trust. It may take them longer to trust you or they may not trust you at all.

Be sure everyone in the home knows how to interact with the new kitten and what the plan is for establishing trust before bringing them home to prevent this.

11. Reach Out for Help

If it’s been several weeks and your kitten still doesn’t trust you, it’s time to get help. First, talk to your kitten’s veterinarian. There may be an underlying health problem that’s causing them to hide or mistrust humans. They may also have suggestions for how you can get them to trust you.

A veterinarian may recommend a behaviorist who can meet with you and your kitten to suggest ways to help build that bond if everything you’ve tried so far hasn’t worked.

happy woman and veterinarian doctor with tablet pc computer checking scottish fold kitten
Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

How Do You Know Your Kitten Trusts You?

When can you be sure that all your efforts to get your fearful kitten to trust you have worked? You likely won’t see all these signs at once. However, you may see one or two pop up at first and then others will follow as the trust builds.

  • They spend time with you
  • They follow you around
  • They blink slowly at you
  • They knead you
  • They lay upside down around you
  • They meow at you
  • They rub against you
  • They sleep near you
  • They know your routines
  • They eat out of your hand
  • They greet you when you come home
  • They bring you gifts


Adopting a kitten is exciting and building trust with them is a normal part of the process as you both get to know each other. Follow the tips above and you’re sure to build a strong connection with them. Remember, patience and consistency are key to a lifelong bond with your new cat.

Featured Image Credit: shymar27, Shutterstock

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