Most cat owners have been there: You bring a new cat home, and she hides and won’t come out. What does it mean and what should you do? That’s what a reader asked. Here’s what my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, and I told her.
Q: We’re fostering a cat, and she beelined for the bedroom as soon as we brought her home. She has food, water and a litter box in there, and she’ll let us pet her, but she won’t come out from under the bed. We have two other cats, but we haven’t let them into the room yet. What can we do to help her feel safe?
A: In new surroundings, cats need time and space before they feel safe enough to explore. Right now, under the bed is your foster cat’s happy place: It’s dark and quiet and she feels safe there from any potential threats, whether those are the hands of strangers or the two cats she can undoubtedly smell, even if they haven’t been allowed in the room.
The best thing you can do is to give her the opportunity to relax and explore her new surroundings at her own pace. Don’t push her by trying to pet her or play with her. Sit in the room quietly, but don’t try to coax her over to you. Right now, she just needs to become accustomed to your scent and presence. You can intrigue her by tossing treats in her direction — without looking at her — or wiggling a long teaser toy that allows her to stalk and play without getting too close to you. Other things that can help, according to the Fear Free Happy Homes blog, include spraying the room with a synthetic feline pheromone or playing cat-specific music that has calming properties.
Cats are most interested in people who leave them alone and don’t stare at them because that’s proper feline etiquette in the “getting to know you” process. It could take days or even weeks for her to feel comfortable in your presence, so be patient.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.