There she is, under the bed, in the farthest darkest corner. Her eyes are round and big like twin yellow glowing moons, and she cowers away when you reach towards her. What happened to the outgoing, confident, super affectionate cat you adopted at the shelter yesterday? Don’t worry! Hiding behavior in cats is a TOTALLY NORMAL and healthy response to a new home! But we have some tips to help you and your new kitty relax and adjust, so you’ll have your new loving purring cat back in your lap in (almost) no time at all.
1. Give her time to adjust. Your cat may have been happy & relaxed in the shelter or their foster home, but since then, they may have been examined by a vet, put in a cat carrier, taken a car trip, and now are in a total alien universe filled with strange sights, sounds and smells. Every cat is different, just like every home is different. It can take a day, 5 days, a couple of weeks or more for your new cat to relax. 2 weeks is an average adjustment time for most cats.
As long as your cat is eating, drinking, using the litter box (even if its under the bed!) and not showing any signs of illness, it is generally safe to leave them in their hiding spot. Many cats will venture out at night when you are sleeping and the world is quiet. If she’s hiding in a closet, you can dust flour on the floor in front of the closet door to look for paw prints in the morning, to see if she’s ventured out. See our previous article on Cat Hiding Behavior for more on this topic.
2. Limit new things. If you’re following the tip on in our Bringing Your New Cat Home article, kitty is in her starter room. That should be a safe place for her to take her time to get adjusted to how your house sounds & smells. Wait to introduce her to friends, family, and other household pets until she’s out from under the bed.
3. Get her used to you. If she’s under the bed, or hiding behind the bathroom sink, sit in her starter room with her and read a book, or work on your laptop.
4. Associate you with good things. If she likes wet food or cat treats, push some into her hiding place a few times a day, and just sit near by as she eats it.
5. Natural remedies. Most pet supply stores sell holistic herbal liquid remedies that can be dropped in the cat’s water or food (Rescue Remedy is a popular one). Many adopters find these really help!
6. Feliway. Another product available online or in many pet supply stores is the pheromone spray or plug-in brand name Feliway. This particular brand is actually used by many shelters, it is that effective in soothing stressed cats.
7. Music. Some adopters we know have told us that playing soothing classical music in the Kitty’s starter room has helped Kitty come out of her shell. The music may help lessen other noises outside the room that she’s finding frightening.
There you go, seven steps to help your new cat relax and adjust to her new home!