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.