Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Bringing a new cat or kitten home can mean fun playtime, cuddles, and of course a lot of litter box scooping. But what happens when things don’t go so well with our new feline friend? Maybe they spend all their time hiding out under the bed, or they just don’t seem interested in bonding with us. Don't lose hope! It’s probably not that your cat doesn’t like you; they are likely overwhelmed and uncomfortable, and your job is to figure out how to ease their transition into your family.
Start out small
If your home is larger than a studio apartment, it would be a good idea to set your new cat up in a small room where they can take some time to get used to their new home. A bathroom is ideal, as it’s easy to clean and there are probably no hiding spaces that you can’t access. Set your kitty up with a litter box, food and water (far enough from the litter box to avoid mixing litter and food), and a cozy spot to relax. This safe room should also include a scratching post or cardboard scratcher, and something your cat can hide in if they so choose. Some cats will be ready to leave their safe room and explore the rest of their new domain within a day. Others might take a week or longer. You can use this time to cat or kitten-proof the rest of your home. When your new feline companion is coming out to greet you when you enter, and moving about this space with confidence, you can start to introduce them to the rest of the home.
Getting to know you
Cats have their own preferences and motivations, just like people. Spend some time each day getting to know your cat, and take note of what they like and dislike. Are they treat motivated? What kind of treats do they enjoy? Do they crave playtime or pets, or both? Where do they like to be petted? What kind of toys bring out their inner panther?
Slow your roll
Not many cats will appreciate a fast, loud, or hands-on approach. Under socialized and fearful cats will especially need a gentle, quiet introduction, and will need to take things at their own pace. If your cat is frozen, backing away, flattening their ears, hissing, or showing other fearful behaviors, there are a few things you can try to make them feel more at ease:
Keep your movements small and slow
Sit with legs tucked under you and arms close to your body
Avoid eye contact
Keep your own body relaxed
Talk or read to your cat in a calm voice
Set a routine
Cats tend to do better when they know what to expect. Get into a daily routine, keeping playtime, feeding, and bedtime rituals as consistent as possible.
Bringing home a new pet is a big change for everyone, including the pet! In time, you’ll be wondering how you two ever got along without each other.