Wednesday 23 August 2023

Can domestic cats be super-shy?

Shy cat?
Shy cat? Screenshot.

The word "shy" is normally used in relation to the emotions and behaviour of humans and it means a person who is nervous or timid in the company of people. On THAT definition domestic cats can certainly be shy because there are two distinct character types for domestic cats namely the confident cat and the timid cat. 

A timid cat is more likely to hide when a stranger enters the room for instance. A more confident cat is more able to adjust to the presence of a stranger and perhaps even approach them. This is about nervousness to new events and strange people. It's about confidence really.


The kitten in the video is called super-shy? I don't think that the kitten is behaving this way because they are shy. It looks that way but I think the looks are misleading. It looks as if this kitten is a little tired and is placing her paws over her eyes in preparation to sleep or snooze.

Discussion about cats being shy - same as for humans?

But I am not sure that domestic cats experience the same kind of shyness that humans do. A young person might be shy in the presence of strangers because they lack confidence and are unsure about themselves. A cat might be shy in the presence of strangers because they lack confidence but the underlying emotion will not be a feeling of unsureness about their abilities but about the potential dangers that a stranger presents to them. It's about self-preservation. That does not come into play when a person is shy.

To stress the point: for a cat being shy it means that they are protecting themselves against an unknown creature whereas for a human being shy it is not about self-protection but about self-confidence. Although the physical behaviour will look similar between cats and humans.

RELATED: Shy male tabby cat falls for pretty gray female and opens up.


In humans, as well, when they are shy, they can tend to be embarrassed with a red face. Obviously, this does not happen with cats. The emotion of embarrassment is not in the domestic cat's repertoire of emotions as far as I am aware. 

This is a higher emotion and there is a big discussion about whether domestic cats can experience the higher emotions. There is no difficulty in understanding that cats experience the lower emotions such as happiness and sadness, anger and calm but the emotions such as grief and jealousy are up for discussion.

Learned a lot

There is one thing for sure, though, people are gradually learning a lot more about domestic cats and their abilities together with their intelligence and in doing so we are understanding that cats have a greater range of emotions than we had previously thought were possible.

If you go back far enough you even find that some veterinarians didn't believe that cats could feel pain! That's how far we have moved on and a lot of that is thanks to the education about cats brought to people via the Internet. It has transformed our knowledge of cats.

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