Thriving Cat

How Long Does it Take a Cat to Feel Safe in a New Home?

It may appear your rescue kitty will never feel completely safe and happy in your home. You may feel like they will always by jumpy, shy or scared. You might feel like that is just the way it is and you will have to live with it. Well, I have been through this several times now. I have learned that it may take a long time but with enough love and patience, your cat can get over it’s fear and bad history. So how long does it take a cat to feel safe in a new home?

First of all I think it is important to understand that cats are intelligent animals with their own personalities, likes, dislikes, memories and opinions. When you think of a cat as just the creature you adopted that should be happy that it has a good home now, you aren’t giving the cat enough credit. It knows it’s life has been rough. It knows that it was taken out of its home but does not know why. It knows it was taken to a scary, noisy, smelly place with lots of other strange cats and dogs and kept in a small cage. It knows it was taken home by you. It does not know if you will keep it forever though. It might still miss its former home, or have been traumatized and have trouble trusting humans again.

With all that in mind, it makes sense that a cat is an individual with fears, anger, and sadness and that it will take him some time to feel safe and content in a new home. That is why it can take a good deal of time for your new cat to feel your home is his home, and you are his human. He has learned that humans are not to be trusted. Self preservation may have taught him that he needs to be independent and take care of himself.

My first cat Tigger was not one of these slow starters. He was loving and happy from the beginning, however he had been rescued as a kitten and had a good foster home so he may have adjusted better than an older cat.

The second and third cats we adopted both took at least a year to come out of their shell and feel safe. The second cat, which we nicknamed Pie Pie, is a cute French Chartreux. She is the queen bee. She is bossy, and grumpy, and independent. She can also be sweet. It took her a year almost exactly to get comfortable in her new home. I think she missed her old home and felt that she had been kittynapped. She hated my husband. Then a year after we adopted her from the shelter, she just turned around. She was happy, sweet and would sit in our laps…even my husband’s! Now she is his “little girl”. I wondered if the year was not just a coincidence? Perhaps cats notice the change in the seasons and recognize once they have been through the same season before in their new home. Maybe they feel safe because everything has settled into a routine. They know the summer routine around the home, what birds are outside, what the smells are, what we do. They know the winter routine because they have been through it before.

The third kitty we rescued (nicknamed Mouse) has been the most difficult. He took over a year to get comfortable and is still only comfortable with assistance from a pharamone collar and drops that calm him and make him feel content. Without this assistance he is still jumpy and pees outside the box in all sorts of inappropriate places. See my products posts for information on these products.

Over time, and with assistance, Mouse, has become an extremely sweet fellow. He is like a dog. He follows me everywhere. He sits on the back of the chair and wraps his long legs around my back and purrs. He is a joy with all his fluffy love. He appears to be a Norwegian Forest Cat. There is a breeder here in town. I wonder if someone couldn’t handle his peeing on things and took him to the shelter? He has all the appearance and traits of a Norwegian Forest Cat. Who knows, it is possible he could be a purebred but nobody had the patience to help him. Please see these posts for products I use to deal with his anxiety and inappropriate behaviors. These products have saved our house and our relationship with Mouse!

Now we have quite a family. The picture on my header is of Mouse on the left and Tigger on the right. They play together all the time. Mouse still has not been accepted fully by Tigger and Pie Pie after two years, but they are getting there. Tigger and Pie snuggle together. You can always find them sleeping curled around each other. Mouse doesn’t have that level of acceptance but occasionally I see them sleeping closer together now.  Tigger being so good natured is the first to accept Mouse. Queen Pie is a bit slower.

If you want some great tips to speed up the process and make your cat not only get along with the other cats but also get along great with you too, check out this book How to Make Your Cat Adore You. It has great information on the psychology of cats, how to understand them and how to gain their trust, as well as other topics like health and nutrition. I have had cats all my life and I learned some new things reading this!

So, with lots of patience your new kitty will become a part of the family. It can be very hard when it seems like they will never stop glaring at you or jumping at every noise but if you want to make it work, you usually can. It might take a year, but it’s so worth it when your cat feels safe in your home and your happy family is complete! Please leave a comment, question or thought below.

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16 Comments

  1. Barb

    Good advice, here, on kitty acceptance. Do you think it’s harder on a third cat coming into a home with 2 buddy cats? I wonder if that’s why your third is having a tough time getting accepted by the others?

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      That is a very good point Barb. I suppose being the third wheel makes it worse, though Pie Pie did not like being the second wheel either. She wanted to be an only kitty. So I think it all depends on the cat’s personality. In many cases it is probably harder to be anything other than the first kitty!
      Jessica

      Reply
    2. Allen

      I brought in a third cat and my other two are okay with her. It took a little time, and the worst case is that one of them simply ignores her. But now they eat together and get along so it’s very definitely possible to introduce another Cat to a pair of buddies.

      Reply
      1. Jessica (Post author)

        Good! Yes, I think the norm is for multiple cats to get along to some degree. They are like people though with different personalities so some will get along better than others. Some will just tolerate each other and some will be very bonded. Ours get along better the longer they live together.

        Reply
  2. Chuka

    Very good and useful information, thank you. Do you think that cats notice when someone is allergic to them. I used to have and love cats as a child but as an adult, I developed severe allergies to perhaps cat’s dander. Several cats in the neighborhood visit my house, always sitting by the window and patio, which I don’t mind. They all do their stuff in my garden, which can be unsightly, especially my front garden. Any ideas what I may do?

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Chuka,
      This can be quite a problem. I have heard that cats do not like citrus so you can put citrus peels in your garden to keep them away. You can also use citrus oils in the area. I have not tried this myself. Another solution I have heard is that you can put coffee grounds around your garden. They don’t like the strong smells of the coffee or citrus. Tobacco is also listed as an option similar to coffee grounds for spreading in the garden.

      Other ideas are setting up an alternative space for the cats, kind of an outdoor cat/sand box. There are strips that keep cats off made for this purpose that are made of plastic or hard rubber spikes that don’t hurt the cat’s feet but are uncomfortable. I need to try those myself! There are also plants you can grow that deter cats by their smell such as lavender (supposedly) and lemon thyme. I LOVE lemon thyme. It is my favorite herb. That would be a good one to try! I saw geranium listed as well, however I don’t trust this as I have a geranium plant that I keep inside year round and the cats don’t avoid it at all, in fact my French Chartreux tries to eat the flowers! She loves all flowers.

      Of course cats don’t like water so if the soil is moist they will stay away as well. I hope that helps a little! I am sure the cats come to you since they know you are a nice person!
      Jessica

      Reply
  3. Yolanda

    Thanks for the terrific article. I’ll be sharing with a friend who’s in this “predicament” right now. She and her husband have accepted that their one and only adopted cat is just skittish, unfriendly, etc., and will stay that way. This will give her hope! Thank You!!

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Hello Yolanda!
      Thank you so much for stopping by and for the comment. My goal is to help people and their cats finally have a peaceful home. I am so glad this might help your friend!

      Make sure your friend checks out my post here on products for cat anxiety. These products such as the Safe Space for Cats drops which go on their fur and the pheramone collar and diffuser will do the most to quickly make everyone happy. The titles of these posts say they are for cats peeing outside the box, but the products help with all forms of cat anxiety, fear and anti-social behavior. Check them out.

      I will be adding posts on many cat behavior and health issues soon such as cats throwing up and having common health problems.
      Thanks!
      Jessica

      Reply
  4. Margaret

    I adopted my present cat in October 2015, just a few months ago. She came from an ideal home where she had lived since she was a kitten. Her family were going overseas to live so at age 10 years she needed re-homing. She wanted love and attention, and I gave her plenty. Within a month or so she “owned” the place, though she is still decreasingly afraid of our big, but very friendly dog.

    By contrast, I’ve seen cats with dubious backgrounds take months, and in one case several years, to settle in when my friend adopted them. She had her own two cats and one or two adopted strays so there was also acceptance and dominance problems.

    This supports what you say, Jessica. A domestic cat has lost most of its ability to thrive on its own. No wonder it suffers anxiety if it is abandoned or taken to a new home. And that anxiety needs to be overcome before the cat can adapt and settle into its new home

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Hello Margaret,
      Yes, I think you just put this into words better than I did. The amount of time it takes a cat to feel happy in a new home is directly proportional to its past experience as well as the amount of love, attention and respect it gets in its new home. It may also be harder for additional cat brought into the home when you already have cats there that are established. It is probably harder for the new cat to feel it is “their” home.

      Thank you for explaining the difference between these different cat adoption situations.

      Jessica

      Reply
  5. Dave Donahue

    Great post! I love cats but the family has allergies. I see stray cats and they come to the door but run off as soon as they see me. This post kind of puts things into perspective!

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Hello Dave,
      Thanks for stopping by. My husband is allergic so I understand. He adores the kitties though and would never let them go. My upcoming posts this week will cover supplements for dogs and cats that help with common health issues. Just thought I would let you know if case you have a dog.
      Thanks for the comment,
      Jessica

      Reply
  6. Connie Bowers

    We adopted 6 mo old “Toast” from a shelter who had rescued him from a parking lot. He was scared of everything and everybody…he is an only cat in our home. We have had him 9 months and he only likes me, not my son who lives with me (adult). He will not be picked up or held. His hiding and safe place is under my bed and he heads there when the ‘phone or door bell rings. When anyone comes to our house, he heads under the bed and doesn’t come out until he’s sure they are gone. We are hoping he gets better and he is improving. Just so skittish about every noise and person, other than me. Never had a cat like this one before, he is an “experiment” in cat care!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hi, thanks for sharing your story about Toast. I am glad you are giving him a loving home! I really recommend the pheromone products (collars plug-in diffuser) and or the Safe Space for Cats drops. They have turned our scardy, jumpy cat into a whole new kitty! I was skeptical at first but so pleased at their effect.

      Jessica

      Reply
  7. RJ Teich

    I rescued (adopted) a very quiet one year old last August. That is the way he was at the pet store where the Humane Society first had him with three other cats up for adoption. As a volunteer, I had the pleasure and privilege to care for him there, and we bonded. He was then placed onto their Mobile Adoption Trailer for an adoption event, but was one of two that didn’t get adopted that day, until I decided I wanted him and brought him home to a eight year old cat. What I didn’t know was Trevor’s back story (he came with a Cat Profile Page) and to me it was terrible! I could just imagine the constant yelling he was subjected to. The reason his first owners dumped him back at the shelter was because he was spraying their house. Well what to you expect from a male cat you did not neuter (plus they didn’t bother to get him any shots)? Monday will be a year since he arrived and his personality has done a one eighty! He’s funny, destructive, full of life and love. I tell him everyday how he now has a forever home with no yelling. That there will also be no more cages either (except when he goes to the vet once a year). I made these promises to him and I intend to keep them. I hope my words of encouragement sink in, but he’s such a goofy guy, that sometimes I’m not sure. But him running through my house on any given day like a house on fire tells me that he senses things are much better now. And I truly believe he’s happy. He’s made me happy! And a much better person too!!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hi, your Trevor sounds like nice boy. I am glad he has a safe, loving home now! Good for you! I have never regretted adopting a pet! They have all been wonderful.

      Jessica

      Reply

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