Bonding With Your New Adult Cat

Bonding With Your New Adult Cat

By Hayley Shucker

So, you did something very special during the holiday season—you’ve adopted a furry friend! First of all,  congratulations and thank you for adopting—it saves lives! If your new friend is an adult cat, she (or he) will need special attention when coming to their forever home. If you are a novice cat owner, here are some tips to help you bond with the new addition to your family.

She might be scared and hide for a few days. Even if she was friendly and begging for your affection at the adoption center, that attitude can change when you get home with her. Two things, in particular, can trigger your cat to run and hide: the car ride home and odors in your home. Most cats aren’t fond of car rides because of the noise and vibrations, and the new smells in your home differ from those in their previous environment. Before bringing your kitty home, create a safe space for her in your bedroom with access to fresh food, clean water, some toys, and a litterbox. 

Some products can help put your cat at ease.

A covered cat bed can help the kitty transition better. The covered cat bed helps her feel protected because it is mostly enclosed, so she knows that nothing will get her from behind or above. As a bonus for pet parents, they also come in multiple novelty designs—such as a pineapple, a mouse, a unicorn—to match your style. Most of these are washer/dryer friendly, too. 

A covered litter box also provides privacy and a feeling of safety. Plus, they are much better at keeping the area clean from litter spills and containing the smell. The safer your pet feels, the sooner she will come out of hiding. 

Indoor warming beds are great during the winter and can simply be unplugged in the warmer months; they are designed to warm to your pet’s normal body temperature when in use, creating a cozy nap space. I find that warming beds help my two cats relax, so I’ve placed three of them around the apartment. All of mine are from K&H Pet Products, which has the plug-in and self-warming beds available. Note, though, that warming beds are not recommended for cats with mobility issues, who would not be able to remove themselves from the warming bed, or for cats who have recently undergone surgery. Cats who were recently spayed or neutered should not have access to a warming bed. Also, don’t place beds in a confined space (such as a carrier) where your cat wouldn’t be able to leave the warming bed.

Here’s how you can ensure a smooth transition.

A popular hiding spot for cats is under the bed. Provide your new kitty with a cat bed and some soft blankets or towels to nest in or knead. If she’ll let you pet her while she’s under the bed, do it to help put her at ease. Lie down next to the bed and talk to your cat; this gets her used to hearing your voice. Feel free to sing to her, too. It’s also a good time to familiarize your latest family member with her name, especially if you plan to change it from her name at the kennel or in foster care.

Food is the best bonding tool at your disposal. Pick up some pureed cat treats that you can squeeze onto your finger, and allow your cat to lick it off. This feeding style builds trust with your new pet because she will become familiar with your smell and associate you with treats. You can try to lure your cat out from her hiding spot using traditional dry treats too. Make a trail of treats leading from under the bed and into the open room; then, sit on the floor a few feet away. Let her come forward as much as she feels comfortable. As tempting as it is, don’t immediately approach her if she comes out to explore because that will most likely send her right back under the bed.

Lastly, leave your cat alone for a while. You want her to know your voice and smell, but she won’t come out to use the litter box if she is scared. If she isn’t receptive to your offer of treats, then it’s time to leave the room for a while. Giving cats space to eat alone or use the litter box alone allows them to feel relaxed. When your cat comes to visit you, you’ll know she’s decided to trust you.

Bottom Line: Be patient. Let her hide. Get down on her level. Let her sniff you. Utilize treats. Don’t force her to come out. Be patient—cats are fickle sometimes. Take your cues from your cat—she will bond with you at her own pace.

Each cat is different, and the adjustment time will vary per pet. Some cats are very socialized and not bothered by a change in scenery; however, others spend the first week under the bed or in the closet. (I’m not allowed to close my closet because my older cat has decided that it’s one of her napping zones.)

Edited by Rena Henderson