We don’t personally know your cat. But we do know that they probably have remarkable courage and a big heart. They must have, as they’ve learnt to trust people and want to be a companion for a special person – and that special person is you. Good choice!
We have a soft spot for timid cats, and the people who adopt them, and want to help ‘moving house’ go smoothly for you, and for them. So here are some tips.
On this page
- What to expect from your new cat while they settle in
- Before they arrive
- Tips on helping them settle
What to expect from your new cat
They will hide
No, you haven’t done anything wrong. No, there’s nothing wrong with them. Yes, they will stop hiding in time. And yes, they will grow to love and trust you and become a beautiful friend. They just don’t quite feel safe yet.
Why? Because moving house is a big deal for cats – even bigger than for us! Cats’ territory is really important to them. When they move from their foster home – their old territory – to your home – their new territory – they have to start from scratch in bonding with it and making it their own
They will take a bit longer to settle than a bold cat
Your timid cat has a fantastic in-built self protection system. It’s this wonderful system that enabled them to survive when they didn’t have a human of their own, survive so that you could become their human and they could become your friend.
They will want to make sure they feel safe before they want to cuddle. Their past experiences with humans may have been pretty crappy. So patience is key
Start them off in a comfortable and quiet room
You might want to show them the whole house straight away so they can see how great life is going to be with you, but hang tight. They have their whole life to explore the house.
They’ll settle in quickest if you confine them to a comfortable room until they’re approaching you for affection. Keep the door closed while they get their bearings and put their scent (and fur!) in the room
Keep them safe inside – prevent window or door escapes
Being territorial, your kitty will be frightened when they move house and will want to flee.
Timid cats are tricky to find if they get out, so be super careful with windows and doors. Have windows open a maximum of 2cm, even if you have flyscreens, and take care when opening doors.
Before they arrive
Your kitty will appreciate it if you find out their favourite things:
- what sort of litter they like
- what they’ve been eating
- their favourite treats
- whether they prefer vertical or horizontal scratching substances
- toys they go nutso over
and have these ready for them. That’s five fewer changes they have to cope with. Phew!
Starting off your relationship with some warm roast chicken probably won’t do you any harm.
You may also like to have a Feliway diffuser in their room. Feliway gives off ‘happy cat’ pheromones and will help them feel calmer. It is is odourless to us, but not to them. It is available online (cheaper) and at vets (pricey).
Do a safety check
If your cat’s foster carer didn’t do a home visit, do a ‘safety check’ on possible ways your kitty could get out of your home while they’re settling in, and other hazards that could harm them. Then do what you need to to make it timid-kitty-proof.
Tips on helping them settle in
- Set up a ‘sanctuary room’ for them Your bedroom or a comfortable spare room is good. Give them secure hiding places, like a wardrobe, large igloo, under-desk area covered with a blanket. Make it as snuggly as possible. Think of how kids like to hide – you get the drift.
- Ask if your kitty’s foster carer can bring them to you Kitty knows them best and it’ll smooth their transition if they’re with their carer when they meet their room and if the person stays with them for a bit. This will help them not feel like they’ve been abducted by aliens
- Keep them in that room while they settle Have their food, water, litter tray, scratching post, bed and toys in this room. Keep the door (and windows!) closed
- Quietly hang out in their room Show them that you’re safe to be around. Read, sew, do computing, talk on the phone, play quiet computer games, listen to soft music and ‘just be’. You don’t even need to interact with them to start off with. The more they experience you as being non-threatening, the better
- Look at them with ‘soft eyes’ Give them lots of ‘cat kisses‘ so they know you’re no threat. When they kiss you back, celebrate! They’re feeling safe
- Use food to win them over If they won’t eat when you put their food down, leave the room. Over time, they’ll start eating in front of you, even if you have to be on the other side of the room. Gradually, move closer and closer to their food, then start hand feeding them. This lets them know that you’re the new Food God (and servant!)
- Stroke them while they’re eating Reinforce your Food God status by stroking them while they’re eating
- Wait a bit before introducing them to other animals You might be dying for them to become friends with your existing cat or dog. But hang ten. They’ll do best if they get used to their new home first, then other animals. Cat behaviourist, Jackson Galaxy, has some great tips on introducing them to your cat. And here’s some info on introducing them to your dog. For guinea pigs, chickens, rabbits, birds, fish and reptiles, ask Google
- When they’re approaching you for pats and love, it’s time to start exploring the rest of their new home. Take it slowly and always have their sanctuary room available to run back to if they’re feeling worried
Yes, they will settle!
You’d need to do all of this if you were adopting a confident cat. You’re just adding some extra safeguards, and a bigger sprinkling of patience (and food bribes). 🙂
We hope everything goes swimmingly. Have a peek around this site for all things ‘scaredy cat’.
❤ We wish you a lifetime of love and happiness together. Timid cats are awesome cats! ❤
A happy tail
“After deciding to adopt another cat as a friend for our existing cat – and weeks of looking – my husband and I kept coming back to one particular little lady. We have a quiet house with no children so we thought we’d be good parents for a scaredy cat.
Most important for us was that she would get along with Lloyd, a fellow fluffy rescued cat. We hoped that she would grow to like us humans eventually.
With the ground work done by her amazing foster mother, it still took time and patience: several weeks of igloo hiding in a wardrobe, slowly, slowly being patted (still in the igloo of course) and then, one magical night – she chose to come out to be with us!! It was so rewarding to see her be brave enough to trust us.
And then, after cautious introductions with Lloyd, she began to explore the house, bit by bit.
Now, Charlie Larley is a big smooch. She lounges about the house, calm and content. She loves a warm lap; when that’s not available, a DVD player will do. And at night, she likes sleeping in the middle of a human sandwich.
She and Lloyd are great friends, regularly hanging out and sleeping with each other. We even caught him giving her a vigorous face wash recently.
Charlie has expanded her circle of human friends to include my mum, who’s very skilled at playing mouse, and will let her pat her. There are four other humans who she’ll come out for when they visit. When we went away for a week recently, she was even sitting on our cat sitter’s lap by the end of our holiday.
We couldn’t be happier with her and consider ourselves lucky to be her humans.”
Kim and Enrico Eberhart