Hiding Cat
December 14, 2003 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I just adopted a new cat. Ever since I got her home, she's been hiding under the bed--she's absolutely terrified (strange house, strange person, existing cat--he's not been aggressive towards her, just intensely curious). How long is an acceptable period of time for her to get used to living here? She's not eaten or drank anything for at least 24 hours and I'm starting to get worried.
posted by eilatan to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Totally normal cat. My cat didn't come out from behind the couch for two weeks. Yours will probably come out on her own and eat/drink when you are asleep and the other cat is away/asleep as well. To facilitate introducing her to the new place, you might want to give her a room all her own -- if you can -- and put her own food/water/litter box in there so she can get used to a place in your house that feels safe [*you* know that cat #1 is only curious and not a threat but she may not] as well as feels like her own. You can even do this in the bathroom if there's not too much in-and-out traffic. this will also give cat #1 a chance to get used to her smell without getting in her face. Here's more on the subject from the Stanford Cat Network. Your kitty will be fine.
posted by jessamyn at 9:08 AM on December 14, 2003

We've brought 3 new cats into our home in the past year, and watching them has led me to believe there's as many different timetables for adjustment as there are cats. Remember that cats are creatures of habit, and aren't going to want to take in the whole home at once. You may want to leave the doors closed in the room she's in, so the space doesn't seem as imposing to her. If things seem quiet and manageable, she'll probably come out and explore sooner.

And keep your other cat away for now, if possible. There will be time for introductions once your new cat is used to her immediate surroundings. If your new cat is skittish, then you may want to introduce her to things that smell like your other cat (perhaps a blanket he's slept on?) and let her get used to that, before they actually meet.

We've used a small spare bedroom as the landing ground for our new additions. One cat wanted to go exploring within a day's time. The other took more than a week before he'd step across the open doorway (and 2 days before he'd come out from under the bed). Every cat has a different timetable; I think this is more art then science.

On preview: Pretty much what jessamyn said.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:14 AM on December 14, 2003

Response by poster: I just set up a separate litter box and food/water for her in the bedroom and moved the existing cat's litter box into the living room, to see if she'll come out if there's no chance of anyone bothering her. The only issue with that is that there's going to be some traffic through the bedroom because the bathroom is located off the bedroom (1 bedroom apartment). She did get up on the bed last night for the express purpose of hissing and growling at me.

This is sort of freaking me out because cat #1 wasn't like this *at all* so I have no experience dealing with a cat who hides. Peaby is almost aggressively friendly. I think he's part dog, actually.

Also, how would one wean a cat off eating solely wet food to eating solely dry food? Mix the two together with a slowly increasing proportion of dry to wet?
posted by eilatan at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2003

Agree with jessamyn. My best friend just got a cat and it did the same thing. She moved the litterbox, food, and water into the room that "Lucy" had chosen as her hidey spot, and left her alone. Within a couple days Lucy was comfortable and decided to come out. Cats are neat little creatures; some (like mine) are rambunctious and go with the flow, others (apparently yours) are shy and don't like change... much like people.

Whatever you do, don't spend copious amounts of time on your hands and knees trying to coax kitty out from under the bed. The best thing to do is just go about your normal routine. I would recommend doing something like folding laundry or some other activity in the room where you can talk and get him used to you without being pushy. Plus, I've never met a cat who could resist not coming out to "help" fold laundry.

On preview, don't worry about being hissed at.. the cat is just scared and doesn't know how to communicate. My parents cats hissed at each other when they first met, and now they are inseparable.. so early encounters aren't something to worry too much about, whether between cats and cats or cats and people.
posted by gatorae at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2003

Good advice here. Ignore her as much as you can (even when she comes out, just make soft soothing noises at her, but don't look directly at her, and let her approach you), but make sure that she has easy access to tempting food (something like Sheba, which is the kitty equivalent of McDonald's, not what you want to feed regularly, but a good choice for cats who aren't eating) and water. Some cats take longer than others, my last one was horrible for over a month before he eventually turned into the coolest cat ever. You do want to make the food as appealing and easy to get as possible, though, since cats don't do well with not eating for long periods (unlike dogs), and cats will starve themselves to death (also unlike dogs). Maybe put the food under the bed? Obvious, but make sure the litter box is well away from the food and water.
posted by biscotti at 9:46 AM on December 14, 2003

Response by poster: She's used to a regular diet of Fancy Feast, so that's what she's got at the moment. I'm planning on switching her to what cat #1 eats, though--he gets Iams kibble.

I seriously think her prior owner was underfeeding her: she's 2 years old and is very small (although there are cats who are very small, she still seems a bit smaller than normal), and only got one can of Fancy Feast a day, and those are small cans. I've put the food/water near the bed, but I think I'll shift it under the bed, near the edge where I can still see if she's eaten anything.

Thanks for all the advice--as I said, cat #1 isn't like this at all, so I wasn't sure how to cope with it.
posted by eilatan at 9:58 AM on December 14, 2003

Yeah, make sure the cat is eating & drinking - a few days without intake can send a cat into liver failure, which is often fatal and if not, costs a lot of money. My little beast cost me a couple grand when we moved into a small dark apartment that apparently made her as apathetic and depressive as it did me, and she forgot to eat for a couple days.

Other than that, just let her adjust on her own time. My cat was a stray and very scared & mean (just out of fear, but she scratched & bit) at first; now she's seriously the roundest, friendliest, softest, smushiest cat around. She usually sleeps on top of me or near my head, sits on my lap when I'm at the computer, and purrs on contact. She still doesn't get along that well with other cats, though.
posted by mdn at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2003

The prior comments cover it all, but thought I'd throw in our experience fwiw. 8 years ago we adopted an adult rescue cat. From the moment we let him out of the carrier in our house to about 5 weeks later, we *never* saw the cat-- not once! We were afraid he escaped outside somehow and was long gone. We looked high and low, and then started over looking low to high, to no avail. (Food and water were available the entire time both because we had another cat, and also because we were worried about T.C.'s fate.) To this day we don't know where T.C. hid those first hard five weeks... but once he came out of self-exile he decided we were ok, and now is a wonderful, irreplaceable part of our lives. (OMG, on preview this sounds like a treatment for a Cat-Frank-Capra movie!)
posted by limitedpie at 10:40 AM on December 14, 2003

My two bits: she's being a typical cat. The advice you've gotten so far is excellent. Do try to give her her own space, food and litterbox for the first couple of weeks. She'll eat and drink and do all the other necessary things if you can give her some peace and quiet. When she's isolated in the spare room, give your new cat a bed made out of an old sweater or blanket, something with your smell on it. It seems to help the cat get used to you.

When I've done this, integrating my own pair of moggies, I started letting them mix after about the second week when I was home but separating them while I was out. There were some fights and hurt feelings, but they sorted it out with some mediation. After a while, about a month or so, they were able to tolerate each other and I stopped worrying about it.

One thing to watch for is what my dad calls "power-pointing", a cat sitting at an intersection or in a doorway, effectively controlling access to an area. It's a feline "do you feel lucky, punk?" dominance behaviour. It can be a problem if one cat starts cutting off access to food/water/toilet/bed for the other. As top cat, it's your job to pick the offender up and put her in a neutral space, like the couch.

I had the same issue with wet and dry food as you do; one of mine was used to wet food. I switched her cold-turkey to dried. It worked, but she wasn't too happy about it. She still gets soft food every once in a while as a special treat. You might try a few brands of dry food too. Specialty pet stores often have free or very cheap trial sizes. It took a few tries to find a kibble everyone likes.
posted by bonehead at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2003

Response by poster: I only have a one bedroom apartment, with no spare room--I can't keep them separate 24 hours a day, because cat #1 has to sleep with me. Cat #2 can get up into the box spring, though, which cat #1 can't do, because he's too big.

So in the living room I have food/water/litter for cat #1 and in the bedroom I have food/water/litter for cat #2. I'll keep them separated as much as possible, but as night, they'll have to mix.
posted by eilatan at 11:11 AM on December 14, 2003

My cat was adopted from a shelter, it took him a couple of days to stop hiding and a good week to get comfortable with his surroundings. I've never tried to introduce a second cat, so I can't help you there, just make certain the cat is in a warm environment that is not to large and has at least one good hiding spot. Leave food and water out and don't pressure it.
The last two times I moved the cat underwent similar readjustment, the first time freaked him out to the point where he got both a bladder infection and a cold, so monitor your cats behaviour closely for signs of physical discomfort.
posted by Grod at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2003

My roomie adopted a cat from a shelter that stayed under his bed (except to sneak out in the middle of the night for food/bathroom things) for, kid you not, six months.

That was 4.5 years ago. He uses the cat door just fine now.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:12 PM on December 14, 2003

Response by poster: Update: The Pretty Pony Princess Kitty is now coming out from under the bed for food and litter (both in the bedroom/bathroom area. I went in there a while ago and she was actually curled up on a pile of clothes and not under the bed--and she allowed me to pet her. She is able to be enticed from under the bed with a bowl of food--she ate an entire can of Fancy Feast and now has a bowl of Iams kibble to tide her over for the night. So I think we're going to be okay. Once she and Peaby get used to each other, that is. He's twice her size, but I have a feeling that she's going to be the boss of him once it all shakes out.
posted by eilatan at 8:26 PM on December 14, 2003

I do not currently have cats, but for those of you with two aggressive cats (and two rooms) I once read a great suggestion for getting them used to each other: keep each cat shut in its own room for a while (a day or more). Once each is used to that space, swap their rooms. They'll be most annoyed at the signs of the other cat, but this lets them get used to each other having been around without letting them go at each other. Never tried this, mind you, but you've all just jogged my memory.
posted by Songdog at 10:59 AM on December 15, 2003

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