How to Help Your New Kitty Adjust

Many cats have great difficulty with change.  When they're first adopted, it can take some time for them to get acclimated to their new surroundings.  Angela G. writes about her new feline friend, Benny:

I just adopted a male cat who’s a year and a half old. He has been hiding since yesterday when I brought him home. I’ve only seen him early at 4:00 this morning by chance. I got up & he was under the kitchen table. He seems to be happy when I pat him, but then I turned my back & he was gone again. He did go to the litter to pee, but he has not eaten at all. They told me if he*s under stress he won*t eat, but he won*t even come out. PLEASE WHAT CAN I DO????

Try not to worry too much, Angela.  This is fairly common behavior for many cats.  Just imagine what an enormous change Benny's going through.  Take a look at your home from his point of view and you'll realize what a vast, unexplored space it is to him; filled with strange smells and sounds.  He's going to be extremely happy there eventually, but the magnitude of this change is just a lot for him to get used to.  He'll need a little time and a lot of patience to get over the hump.  For some cats it can take up to a week or two before they feel at home.  Don't give up on Benny and don't let the process stress you out.  Cats are emotional sponges and they can almost always pick up on the emotional vibes of their friends.  Even new ones.

There are a few things you can do to help Benny today.  First, give him some space.  Don't hover over him and do your best to just let him come to you.  The more aloof and self-assured you are during this process, the more confident Benny will be that you aren't going to harm him.  Cats are not only predators.  They're prey too, so he needs to know he's safe before he can get on with the business of becoming your friend.  Just go about your business and allow him to hide out.  If you can, avoid making any loud sounds or eye contact.  If you do catch his eye, slowly blink both your eyes at him.  That's universal cat sign language for "I love you".

Make sure Benny knows where his litterbox, food and water are.  We normally recommend that food and water dishes be kept far away from the litter box, but in this case, it's okay to place them all in the room where Benny currently feels most secure.  The fact that he's already used the litter box is a very good sign.  Don't clear the litter box right away, as the scent of his deposit can help to make him feel at home. 

The stress of the adoption may also make Benny have loose stools.  This too will pass.  Just be sure to start him off on the same food he was getting before you adopted him.  You'll probably want to switch him to a high-quality wet food if that's not what he's currently on now, but all in due time.  You need to help him get over the big change before working on smaller ones.

If you have some small boxes, make them available to Benny.  Put one in a closet and another under the bed.  Wherever he's hiding.  Just don't bother him when he's there.  He needs to establish his own territory and scent-mark things by rubbing against them.  The more things he marks, the more his scent will be distributed throughout your home and the better he'll feel.  Once he ventures out of his hiding places, you can relocate the boxes to help him find his scent in the other rooms in your home.

Angela, in no time, Benny will start to feel more safe and secure with you.  We just know that you two will have a wonderful time together once he adjusts!  We wish you both all the best!