This Cat's Never Gonna Leave the Bed, Will He.
June 27, 2012 6:12 PM   Subscribe

New cat is not exploring new home. How do we convince him we are nice people?

We brought our new cat Puffy (shelter name) home yesterday at around 11 AM (obligatory photo here). It's going on the second night and this cat is still not budging from inside of the box spring in my bedroom. I understand that this is normal for cats and that some hide for weeks. But, our other cat is sequestered in the basement for now and it would be nice if they could meet before too long. Questions:

- what more can be done to make Puffy feel more comfortable? We've shut the door to the bedroom all day, put food, water, and litter in the room, and left him be. Occasionally I will pet him through the box spring bottom but not often because I don't want to bother him. He doesn't meow or hiss or pace; he just lays there all day. We've sprayed Feliway in the area to help him mellow.

- given that he is a very timid cat, what is the best way to introduce him to our other kitty? Puffy is 9 mos, male, neutered - other cat is ~ 3.5 years, male, neutered.

- at what point should we be concerned if Puffy does not leave the box spring? I heard him using the litterbox last night at around 2 AM and he had clearly used it once yesterday when we weren't around (both little pees). He may have drank some water but it does not look like he touched his food.

- this doesn't mean we're scary people, right? At the adoption place he was very, very loving and sweet towards us. The adoption people had expressed surprise and mentioned that he was usually quite timid and scared around most strangers. Was he just putting on an act with us? Is this a personality trait that will stay with him?

Thanks for any comments and advice - it is very welcome.
posted by amicamentis to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i had a cat that would hide for weeks after we moved or someone new moved in. she'd come out and eat and use the litter box when we weren't watching and back behind boxes or under beds she'd go. once she got comfortable, she was very friendly and up for cuddles. she just took a while to adjust to change.

keep the bedroom door closed for now and let your other cat out of the basement. once puffy gets comfortable in the bedroom, you can introduce the two of them.
posted by nadawi at 6:16 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah it always takes about two days longer than you think it should, no matter how long you think it should take. This says nothing about you being scary. He's using the litterbox which is great. Can you sequester him in the bedroom and give the other cat the run of the house-minus-bedroom? I think you are doing fine.
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

Be patient. We've had cats under the bed for weeks. You're doing fine.
posted by HuronBob at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

He is scared. Continue to be gentle and nice - and patient.
He will come around in his time.
posted by Flood at 6:28 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

(obligatory photo here)

that is a picture of a human though

if your human is stuck under the bed you will need different methods of housewarming

But yes, sometimes cats take a few days (sometimes even a few weeks) to become fully comfortable in their new surroundings, especially if they've come from a shelter-type situation where they were caged amongst a bunch of other cats. I think something about the freedom blows their tiny kitteh minds at first. Don't force any kind of kitteh meetings; wait til the new cat is more adjusted to her new situation and then let them meet on neutral ground (i.e. not a place where either one of them likes to run to when they feel like hiding).
posted by elizardbits at 6:30 PM on June 27, 2012 [13 favorites]

You're definitely not scary people. In fact, you sound wonderful. I'd be totally impatient if I were in your shoes, but I think it's ultimately very good that he has the chance to set his own pace, getting used to the sounds and smells and feeling comfortable that he's not going to get uprooted again anytime soon.

You might consider putting some clothes that you've worn under the bed so that he can get even more used to your smell while he's taking everything in.

Congratulations on the new addition to your family!

Also, you should totally call him Diddy now
posted by argonauta at 6:35 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Two days is no time at all for a cat in a new place - it's not you, it's the place, that's how cats are wired. That said, we gave our cat a powder called Zylkene (came from the vet but it's on the net for cheaper) after we moved and she wouldn't relax or explore, and she was dramatically different in under a week. Some folks swear by Feliway too, but I've never tried it. Sweet cat, I hope he's comfortable soon.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:40 PM on June 27, 2012

This is normal. Before I became a breeder of Championship Cats, I had another, not of the same breed, but , it took him 1 month to come out from under the bed. He was insecure in everything. He eventually came around. He became a great cat and he was 2 years old when I adopted him. He was cooped up with dogs and numerous cats and was territorial, as all cats are. Just be patient and he/she will come around. Don't worry. As is every transition, it's difficult for cats or any one to adjust. Good luck.
posted by brittaincrowe at 6:46 PM on June 27, 2012

I have a friend with a cat- or at least I think she has a cat because I've never seen him. He is ALWAYS under a chair or a bed. But she says he watches tv with her at night and cuddles with her.

I guess P.Diddy is just on his own schedule. As long as he is doing the basic eating/eliminating then he should be okay eventually. Just make sure he is moving a bit and not actually stuck in there!
posted by bquarters at 7:07 PM on June 27, 2012

Hiding for a long time is normal, especially for a shelter cat who may have had some bad experiences.
When we move to a new place and the cats are scared of it, I wash the floors and sprinkle catnip all around the place. This gets them exploring and makes them associate the space with something nice. I'd do just one room at a time with the new kitty, bedroom first and once they're ok there in the next room etc.
Get them used to you; sit next to the bed for a while with a book or something a couple of times a day.
And treats of course! Sit next to the bed and put your hand under it with a couple of kitty treats on the tips of your fingers. Don't put any pressure on the cat, just leave your hand there. If they haven't taken it after ten minutes or so, leave the treat under the bed but stay there. Repeat until the treats are eaten from your hand.

Patience pays off, our ex-feral-scared-of-humans cats are ridiculously affectionate now, but it did take many months to get there.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:13 PM on June 27, 2012

nthing put some of your clothes or used bedsheets undre the bed so little guy can make a nest to feel safe and learn to associate your smell with being comfortable and feeling safe.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:15 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the other posters are perfectly right! My kitty is petrified of change and new animals and when we introduce her to others we just keep her in a room by herself for a little while so she has a safe space. We also put a babygate in front of the door so the other cat couldn't bother her by sniffing and putting his paws under the door (that seemed to really upset her). I think we kept the door shut for almost a week and then after that we let them roam free and moved the litterbox and food from my room (thank god). She's still skittish, because she hates dogs, but we keep the gate up so the bedroom is still her safe space where the dogs can't come.
posted by DorothySmith at 7:44 PM on June 27, 2012

Also, she used to tear up that paper/fabric-type material under the box spring and walk around there in the night (this was after she was used to the place and wasn't skittish), so I eventually staplegunned an old sheet to the bottom b/c she was waking me up. I wouldn't do anything like that though until she's comfortable.
posted by DorothySmith at 7:45 PM on June 27, 2012

The cat I grew up with mostly hid behind the sump pump for a week after we got her. After that she became a lot more gregarious. One thing we did is to put some old clothing with our scent on it in with her bed things - worth a try if you have some old clothes lying around.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:15 PM on June 27, 2012

Hahahha okay other people clearly suggested that, which I somehow missed because I am a dorkface. I plead "I'm tired." Anyway, what L'Estrange and argonauta said.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:16 PM on June 27, 2012

My shelter rescue cat was also friendly and loving in the shelter, and he hid for practically a month straight when I brought him home. You are not scary people, but you are not yet the source of all good things to him. He'll learn that you are the keeper of food and fun.

When you visit him in the bedroom, turn off as many lights as you can and still see. He might be more likely to come out when the room is dark and quiet. And bribe him. I used wet food and a fishing pole toy. These things still make my cat fall in love with me every night.

He will get used to it, but be prepared to give him time and space. It's not just that he's in a strange place; he's also in a strange cat's territory. Being patient is so hard, but if he was loving when he felt safe and secure, he'll be that way again. I agree with other posters above: shut him in the bedroom and give your other cat the run of the house. Puffy will feel more safe, and your cat can get used to this new smell.
posted by gladly at 8:30 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always heard it recommended that you introduce a new cat to just one room for the first couple of days (many people choose the bathroom), and then, once they feel like they have a home base, they will begin to explore the house. Your cat is doing what cats do. Let her know she's welcome, but let her come out on her own.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:00 AM on June 28, 2012

Takes some time. My cat took about 4 hours to come out from under the bed, 24hrs to eat and use the litterbox and about two days to let us pet him. A month until he snuggled with us. We did not have any other pets, though. If it ends up becoming an issue after a week or if the cats dont get along, try using Feliway.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:04 AM on June 28, 2012

Cats are weird, he'll come around eventually. The stray we took in stayed under the bed all day for months, only coming out at night when we were watching tv. He would then sit in the hallway and watch us, and if we didn't move for a bit, then he would go get some food and water. Eventually he began sitting in front of the tv, but bolted if we got up.

Three years in, he makes himself comfy in between us at night, or if I stay up he'll sit on my stomach while I play video games or do whatever.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:34 AM on June 28, 2012

Let cat know you are there, make sure everything else is safe and quiet, and then lie down on the floor beside the cat's hiding place, pretend to be asleep, and wait and see if cat comes out. If so, "wake up" very gently. If he's lonely enough, that should do the trick.
posted by serena15221 at 5:38 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

An Anecdote:

We had our friends kitty-sit for us when we went on vacation. They brought their puppy and three kitties to play with our kitties. Everyone got along fine, except for their kitty Lexi. She hid when it was time to go home, so we just rolled with it. We knew she was in the house somewhere (at the back of our corner, lazy susan cabinet as it turns out) so we just left her food, water and access to the litter box.

One night, in the wee small hours I got up to pee and a kitty came into the bathroom and meowed and rubbed on me. At first I thought it was one of ours, but it turned out to be Lexi. I was so relieved that I took her to bed with me and gave her lots and lots of love. Her people came and took her home shortly thereafter.

The point is, once Lexi was comfortable with us, she was a wonderful, loving kitty. But she's naturally shy and timid.

Puffy will get used to everything and he'll be his own sweet self. Just give him whatever time he needs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:37 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding serena15221. That technique was how I got Megan to be friends with me.
posted by LN at 1:03 PM on June 28, 2012

Another Anecdote:

I used to foster cats, and the cats I'd get were usually very timid and frightened. I had an adorable tabby-pair that had spent about a week and a half underneath my bed, and would not respond to any sort of coaxing. The underbed was a safe, warm place, completely out of arms reach.

The thing is, my bed is essentially on wheels. My partner and I had fallen into bed for some vigorous mid-afternoon sexing. I'd forgotten about the cats. When we were done we realized that we'd moved the bed about 2 feet away from the wall. I'll never forget peeping over the edge of the bed and seeing these two, terrified, round-eyed cats, trying to be as small as possible crouching against the wall, pressed against each other, clearly traumatized by the noise and motion of our enthusiastic diversion.

After that they pretty much hung out in the kitchen.

This was the wrong way to get cats out from under the bed. You're doing fine. Food, water, litter, and he'll come out eventually. There will be pats.
posted by robot-hugs at 1:56 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: cat is still under the bed but last night I scooted underneath and slowly reached towards him for some pets. He was clearly very lonely because he rubbed his face all over my hand and purred super loudly. After a long time of this he started coming closer to the rip in the boxspring and a long time after that he stepped out to the floor and rolled around for more pets. He then drank about a cup of water. He hopped back into the boxspring after that.

He seems very happy and loving but perhaps not quite ready to leave the bed yet, which is fine! I got a nice picture of him this morning :). He doesn't seemed bothered by the smell of the other cat and they were meowing back and forth at each other for a minute last night so at least they are aware of each other's presence in the house (nothing worse than a surprise cat, I imagine). Thank you everyone for your kind replies and assurances that this kitty would be just fine.

Now we just have to come up with a better name than Puffy!
posted by amicamentis at 8:58 AM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

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