Scaredy cat
October 20, 2008 5:14 PM   Subscribe

We just moved and one of our cats is still in a state of frozen panic. His brother has adjusted to his new digs just fine, but the scared one is tense, shakey, and bolts under the bed whenever he can. Any advice on how to calm him down and get him used to the new place?

note: we already moved everything so all of his familiar stuff is there.
posted by muscat to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How long has it been? It takes cats about 2 weeks to get used to anything new. Just let kitty do his thing and he'll come out from hiding soon.
posted by hipersons at 5:21 PM on October 20, 2008

When I moved my cats cross-country, one of them settled in fine and the other was freaked out for a while (she's always been kind of nervous). I dosed their water with Rescue Remedy. It's homeopathic. I have no idea if that's what did the trick, but the scaredy one stopped being so panicked within a week or two.
posted by rtha at 5:35 PM on October 20, 2008

Seconding just let him do what he needs to do. He'll chill out soon enough.
posted by greta simone at 5:47 PM on October 20, 2008

Be patient, give him treats, surround him with familiar objects and smells. Tread carefully around him and minimise his contact with any visitors or other disruptions you might have in your new home until he is fully settled.
posted by fire&wings at 5:47 PM on October 20, 2008

Yep, we drove the cats cross-country. And left them with my parents for a month before they flew the other half of the country.

It definitely took on the order of a month for them to chill back out.
posted by Netzapper at 5:53 PM on October 20, 2008

One frequent suggestion is to start by confining him to a small space, something he feels he can fully explore and understand and feel safe in. Then open it up casually. Best if you're in the space while he's adjusting.
posted by Nelson at 5:53 PM on October 20, 2008

Time heals all wounds. Be super nice, and maybe throw in some favorite foods etc. if there are any, but not every day or else you will develop bad desires. Don't force him out of hiding and don't spook him too much when he is in there by talking to him all the time.
posted by caddis at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2008

Hopefully he won't take to pooping right on your pillow to express his displeasure with the move.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2008

Hopefully he won't take to pooping right on your pillow to express his displeasure with the move.

That too passes. Don't let stuff like that freak you out.
posted by caddis at 6:04 PM on October 20, 2008

Oh, and often when they poop on the bed, they often fold the corner of the covers over the top of it or something similar, as you know there remains that tension between revenge and neatness.
posted by caddis at 6:07 PM on October 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

I've had good luck with Feliway. It plugs into the wall like an air freshener and out comes a happy-making synthetic cat pheromone. It calmed my cat even after I moved into an apartment that, unfortunately, had been peed all over by the previous owner's cats. The stink was atrocious!

The biggest downside is that it's a bit pricey (around $40 or so), but you can easily get it at big box pet stores.
posted by Mouse Army at 6:12 PM on October 20, 2008

Nthing time as the healer of cat anxieties. After our last move, it took the boy cat a few weeks to settle in, while the girl seemed to adjust a little faster. Within a month, they owned the place. (And boy, did they learn to love the stairs!)
posted by malocchio at 6:15 PM on October 20, 2008

Had moderate success with Feliway, but it's not a sovereign remedy. I think the most important thing is to get your smell around the place. He needs to know that this is a safe place, and that those big funny-looking creatures who give him delicious bacon tuna and scratch him under the chin and act as good kneading pads are still around.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2008

posted by k8t at 6:18 PM on October 20, 2008

I've moved three cats cross-country twice in the last five years. Some cats just take longer than others to get over it. Nthing time, and also turgid dahlia's comment about your smell making the place safe for your scaredy cat.
posted by immlass at 6:24 PM on October 20, 2008

Get him high on some catnip. Hell, buy a bag and just leave it on the ground open.
posted by stavrogin at 6:25 PM on October 20, 2008

For the first two weeks or so after my ex-girl moved her cat into my apartment I would always find him literally hiding under the covers of my bed, a cute little terrified lump. He adjusted eventually with lots of support and treats. I miss that critter, not so much the ex.
posted by ryaninoakland at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2008

There is a natural substance my vet told me about the works like Feliway. I will try to find out the name an mefimail you.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:30 PM on October 20, 2008

Seconding stavrogin. My cat was extremely displeased with our cross-country move until we brought home the 'nip from the store. Got her high as a kite and she was fine from that moment forward.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:30 PM on October 20, 2008

I've read in more than one old-timey book (Anne of Green Gables and that sort) that the way to make a cat feel at home in a new place is to put butter on its paws. I guess licking off the butter was such a pleasant experience, the cat would have good associations with the place where it happened? Anyway, a hundred years ago they thought it worked.
posted by smoakes at 10:09 PM on October 20, 2008

I'll be the voice of dissent and say don't treat him in any way special. Just go about your business like you do everyday, and he'll get used to the new surroundings at his own pace. The fact you're not acting different will help him adjust more than trying to spoil him.
posted by mealy-mouthed at 5:16 AM on October 21, 2008

I second giving him a small space until he's comfortable enough to explore. Both times my cat was moved (once cross-country, once across the state) he claimed a closet and refused to leave for about two weeks. We put the litterbox near enough for him to slink to and fed him in the closet. Eventually he'd start slinking around the rest of the house and after about a month, it was his.
posted by purplecurlygirl at 6:28 AM on October 21, 2008

Two moves, two cats, both cross-country. Move A they both freaked, Feliway helped, but it took them some time to settle in. Move B they both were pretty darn calm, and within a day or two were happy as clams (furry, whiny clams). The important thing for a cat is to feel safe. Safe means "in my own territory". You, and your stuff, are your cat's territory. Favorite things - the chair he sits on, the blanket he curls up on at night, the furniture he has rubbed his smell all over - those will help make the house smell like "his" territory. You can use Feliway, it is basically a generic cat smell to help the house smell more like cat more quickly, but time is probably the best solution. As scaredy-cat's brother starts smelling up the place with his scent, scaredy-cat will feel more at home too. After all, if they're brothers, they've always been together (our boys were littermates). Smelling brother cat all over will be familiar, and better than a generic cat odor.

Sounds kinda gross, but another thing to try is to leave some dirty clothes out when you aren't home. Your kitty will be reassured that you are not about to leave him again, because the place will smell like you. Shirt you wore yesterday, that sort of thing. My kitty likes to curl up on dirty clothes. Usually makes him calm. He's always hiding in some laundry basket or other...
posted by caution live frogs at 7:32 AM on October 21, 2008

Third the "keep in small space" recommendation. When I adopted my cat(s), they were placed in a room, with the litter and food and water, and I stayed there with them as much as I could. What also seemed to help was sleeping there, in a sleeping bag, and leaving the bag behind for them to snuggle in when I had to go to work.
posted by Arthur Dent at 9:51 AM on October 21, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all the advice. I think I'll leave some catnip out and otherwise just let him be.

I think there is something about the small space thing. He did venture out just a bit last night, so I walked upstairs and tried to call him up, and that just freaked him out. It was like "OMG daddy is so far away I'm scared!" and he just ran back to his spot. Ha.
posted by muscat at 11:37 AM on October 21, 2008

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