Adopted shelter cat really not adjusting - any advice?

raisingirl

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Hi, I've lurked at this forum for a while, but have signed up to ask for help because I'm at my wits end.

Two weeks ago I adopted a cat from a shelter. She is 12 months old, and had been spayed a few days before I adopted her. She was apparently found on the streets, and is small for her size and quite timid.

I brought her into a house which already had two cats in it, and have been doing the "introducing new cat into household thing", you know, separate room, then slow introductions, lalala.

New Cat, Dru, is really not coping well at all.

So far I am yet to see her walk ANYWHERE, willingly, of her own volition, except for when I've placed her in front of food, water or the litter box, and she hasn't felt like using the facilities, and has instead scurried away and hidden behind or under furniture.

For the first 24 hours when I left her alone in a room with food, drink and amenities, she didn't use them. She did her business on the floor. Once when she did a poop she didn't even move away from it, just sat there amongst it until I lifted her away and cleaned it up.

Fortunately she later proved she does know how to use a litter box after all, but so far she only eats, drinks or goes to the toilet when I lift her up, carry her to the amenities, and place her down in front of them.

So thus the first week went, her in her room, me coming in to check on her, and hold her in front of her food/water bowls and litter box to see if she needed to use them. At no other times did she seem to move. At all. When I picked her up and placed her elsewhere, she didn't return to her previous spot, she just kind of lolled where I'd put her, looking up at me. I took to moving her around from time to time, like you move a pot plant to catch the sun. It was getting spooky.

My mother (I'm in my 20s) who is a veteran multiple cat owner suggested tough love might be the only way to go. So I opened up the door to the rest of the house, moved the litter box and food/water bowls to where the other two cats have their amenities, and left her to it.

She didn't come out of "her" room for another 12 hours. I caved and carried her to eat, drink and relieve herself, and she did. I then put her on the sofa in the living room, for a change of scenery. The other two cats couldn't care less about her - they had a sniff and then went back to what they do, no hostilities of any kind.

The second week, up until now, it's been the same. She doesn't seem to move unless it's me shifting her, and I am yet to see her actually walk from point A to point B. I went back to work three days ago (I was on leave) and I'm assuming that she's eating and drinking because she hasn't dropped dead, and I haven't found messes anywhere so again I assume she's using the litter boxes.

The way she just sort of lolls and languishes wherever you put her is starting to freak me out. In a way it would be better if she hissed and carried on if you tried to touch her, but she doesn't. She lets you pick her up and stroke her and place her elsewhere, or on your lap, and then she just stays there, limp. Occasionally she flinches when you touch her, but most of the time she actually does seem relaxed enough and she actually purrs when you stroke her, rub her ears, tickle her chin, etc.

At the shelter she was normal enough - walked up to the bars, purred, mewed, seemed friendly and confident enough. The warning bells began ringing when she didn't utter a single sound during a 40-minute car trip.

She's due at the vet this weekend for her booster vaccination shots, so I will be consulting their opinion. But I would love it if anyone out here has also encountered a cat who isn't so much timid as in completely lacking in any kind of motivation whatsoever, and if you have any advice.

I live alone and work full time. When visitors come, she doesn't bolt for cover, she just stays wherever she happens to be and lets them stroke her and admire her beauty (she's a long-haired silver tabby) so she seems okay with people.

Help? Please?
 

howtoholdacat

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It's hard to know without actually watching what she's doing but from your description, I'd say she's terrified. Two weeks isn't a long time for a former street cat, then shelter kitty, to adjust to a new home. How long was she in the shelter? Perhaps living in a cage has taught her to be still? Were she my kitty, I'd move her food and water back into her room with her and give her more time. Add Feliway diffusers if you haven't yet. If she's ok with your existing cats, let them have access to the room too. They may help her learn how to be an indoor cat. I'd also go on the stray rescue boards on these forums and ask advice from those who've rescued feral cats. While your kitty doesn't sound feral, she may be displaying behavior that feral rescuers have seen before and they may be able to give you better suggestions. I second talking to the vet. There may be an underlying medical issue that's causing her to be so still. I once knew a cat who would do something similar (but she hid) if she got fleas. It was really bizarre behavior with a pretty normal cause. Keep us posted. I'm interested to hear what you find.
 

fifi1puss

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I think its a good idea to get a check up from the vet but it does sound like she is terrified. They "shut down" sometimes. Especially if she went from on the streets to a tiny cage, being in a home may be a totally new and frightening experiance. I wouldn't force her to go into the main house, let her stay in one room. Let her go at her own pace. It took a year for all my shelter cats to truly open up and show their true selves. Your patient efforts will be rewarded the first time she climbs up on the bed with you to cuddle
...just will take some time.

Spend time in the room with her talking to her and maybe play some soft music for her while you are away. It is a very good thing that the other cats are not bothered by her. Cats learn from each other and once she comes out of her shut down state and explores a little more she will pick up from them how to act.
 

luvmyparker

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I agree with what has already been said. Talk to the vet. If everything comes back fine, then she may just need more time. Even well socialized cats can take a while to adjust. It took our youngest, Buddy, 2 weeks to really come out of his shell and he came from a home with other cats, kids and lots of commotion.
Some cats needs months.
for your girl.
 

Ms. Freya

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She sounds "shut down."

My Cotton was like this when he first came to us. He was so scared and intimidated by other cats, new sounds, new smells, anything, that for the first little while with us all he did was hide behind a desk in his room unless I sat quietly on the floor with the door closed...then he'd belly-crawl into my lap and bury his head into my shirt. After awhile, I'd sit there and talk to him, about anything, until he got used to the sound. He snapped out of it and joined the family after about 2 weeks. If she is shut down, the best you can do is give her a quiet calm place until she starts to rebuild her confidence.

I agree with the others that a vet visit is a great idea. You might also want to look into Feliway for her room - some people have had great results with it.
 

ldg

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I have to agree with the above. She sounds completely terrified, poor thing. If she was a feral kitty, she's going to need time, and potentially a lot of it. It can be frustrating especially if you weren't prepared for that, but it's an investment that ultimately is SO worth it!


Forget the tough love, it will only enforce the concept (for her) that she SHOULD be scared. Essentially you need to take a step back, and look at this not as a cat adoption, but a cat rescue. She doesn't just need a home, she needs (or MAY need) to be socialized.
She needs to learn that she is safe, that love is good, that play is fun. If she's off the streets - or abandoned and on her own for some time - she never learned this or experienced it so long ago she needs to re-learn it.
Whether she's just overwhelmed and shut down, or needs work on the socialization, the process is the same.


The other suggestion - that she was in a cage for a long time - is also possible. Either way, the things that need to be done for her are:

1) Move her food, water, and litter boxes back into the room, and near wherever she's most comfortable (obviously put food and water away from litter box(es)).
2) Give her places to hide so she feels safe. I don't know what room she's in, but boxes turned on their sides are great (especially if there's a flap hanging down), a cloth draped over a table that hangs down to a few inches from the floor... that kind of thing.

3) If you can afford it, definitely invest in a feliway plug-in. Don't put it near the litter boxes.
4) If you can afford it, invest in some Bach's Rescue Remedy (flower essences). Put 3 drops in her water dish every day when you clean it and put new water in.
5) Might be a good idea to invest in a 2nd litter box, at least for now, as cats that have been living outside aren't used to peeing and pooping in the same place.

And then when you can, just spend as much time in the room with her as possible - but not trying to interact with her. Read out loud, work on a laptop, iron, sew, whatever you can think of. Just let her watch and get used to the smells, sounds, and schedule (such as it is) of your home. Take a nap in there. Do exercises in there - whatever you can think of. Let her learn that you are not some big scary beast, and that you are there to take care of her needs, yet want nothing from her.

Then she'll begin to relax and come out of her shell.


If the other cats aren't an issue for her (or them), she will learn a lot from watching them interact with you.
Playing with them around her, cudding with them where she can see... if this is possible, it helps.

Get a t-shirt that isn't "important" to you really good and sweaty. Put it under her food dish. Get a 2nd one good and sweaty - leave treats on it near her every time you leave the room. These will help her associate your scent with "good" things.


Cats are territorial, and she's just had her world turned upside down. For people not familiar with cats that need some socialization, I think looking at it like this helps.

Imagine that you're three years old. You are taken by strangers away from everything that you know. You're put on a plane and sent to China. A loving family takes you in - but you don't know they're loving. To you - you're sick from the airplane, you're confused and tired. You don't understand why you're there or what's happening. Everything looks and smells different. The last thing you want is for your new mom to come and love all over you and hug you and expect you to run around playing.

You get comfortable much more quickly if your new mom puts you in your room - with your bed and your toys - and brings you food at the same time every day. She comes in every morning and makes your bed - but doesn't force herself on you. She comes in throughout the day to bring you a new toy, or leave you a tasty treat, and sits down and reads stories out loud to you, then leaves. She makes sure you're getting everything you need. But she doesn't try to hug you until you hold out your arms to her.


I think your baby has been traumatized, and just needs to be given her time and space. And when that "trust" switch flips, it'll make all the time and effort worth it.
 
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raisingirl

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Wow, that was quick. Thank you so much to everyone for your kind advice.

I should have also mentioned that my house is Feliway'd up, but I will look into the herbal stuff also.

I've come across timid cats before, but nothing like this, so I'm relieved to hear other people's success stories. This morning we actually had progress - she walked, of her own free well, about a foot, from the corner of the sofa to where I was sitting, and I am now 99% certain that she is eating and drinking and relieving herself adequately, just in a very secretive manner.

She's sending such mixed signals: she's clearly not too afraid of people as she seems to enjoy being stroked and cuddled and (quietly) fussed over, even by more than one person. She even rolls back and lets people rub her belly, which seems pretty trusting behaviour. And she isn't fazed by the other cats in the sense that she doesn't bolt from them, or behave defensively/aggressively. So far their behaviour towards her has been pretty much to benignly ignore her apart from the occasional sniff or double-check when they've forgotten she's there and suddenly spot her.

But on this advice, I am going to take a step back and put her back in "her" room, and I'll see what the vet recommends on the weekend.

Again, thanks, all.
 

carolina

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Originally Posted by RaisinGirl

Wow, that was quick. Thank you so much to everyone for your kind advice.

I should have also mentioned that my house is Feliway'd up, but I will look into the herbal stuff also.

I've come across timid cats before, but nothing like this, so I'm relieved to hear other people's success stories. This morning we actually had progress - she walked, of her own free well, about a foot, from the corner of the sofa to where I was sitting, and I am now 99% certain that she is eating and drinking and relieving herself adequately, just in a very secretive manner.

She's sending such mixed signals: she's clearly not too afraid of people as she seems to enjoy being stroked and cuddled and (quietly) fussed over, even by more than one person. She even rolls back and lets people rub her belly, which seems pretty trusting behaviour. And she isn't fazed by the other cats in the sense that she doesn't bolt from them, or behave defensively/aggressively. So far their behaviour towards her has been pretty much to benignly ignore her apart from the occasional sniff or double-check when they've forgotten she's there and suddenly spot her.

But on this advice, I am going to take a step back and put her back in "her" room, and I'll see what the vet recommends on the weekend.

Again, thanks, all.
For what you describe here, she is doing great!

IMHO, I would not put her back into her room... IMHO there is no need for it given this description. She will just get more and more comfortable with time - I would just let her be. Give her time and let her come to you on her own terms. Try to be close to her, talk to her, read, not imposing yourself to her. She will get closer and closer - with shy cats like this it does take some time, but its sounds like she has made a wonderful progress already!
 

ldg

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Originally Posted by Carolina

For what you describe here, she is doing great!

IMHO, I would not put her back into her room... IMHO there is no need for it given this description. She will just get more and more comfortable with time - I would just let her be. Give her time and let her come to you on her own terms. Try to be close to her, talk to her, read, not imposing yourself to her. She will get closer and closer - with shy cats like this it does take some time, but its sounds like she has made a wonderful progress already!
With the additional information you provided, I agree with Carolina!
If she's found a place she feels safe, I think everything will be fine - just let her move at her own pace.


She sounds like a real love.
I'm sure it's just an issue of adjusting. She obviously knows people and love.
 

ligwa

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As usual, all great advise from the members here. I just wanted to add that I adopted a girl kitty last summer from a shelter and it took her a good 3 months to get comfortable. I have one other cat. I kept "Tess" in a room alone for 3 full weeks before bringing her out and then did so in short spurts for another week. After that she was a little cautious but adapted nicely. I'm glad you're taking a step back. Your kitty sounds very sweet. I'm sure she will be fine in a few more weeks. Good luck!
 

rafm

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Everything youve been told is spot on. We had an overly timid cat once to. She spent her ENTIRE first month in our home in a kitty hut on my DH's desk. Then we moved the kitty hut to the living room and she stayed in it for another two weeks. Finally, one night when we went to bed she bolted across the house to get in bed with us.
It took her 6 weeks to finally put her feet on the floor.

It takes time for some kitties. We have no idea what they've been through and we bring them into a home, which they may have never been INSIDE before, with all new strange smells and noises and for some, it's absolutely terrifying, especially for sensitive ones.

Give her some time, she'll come around. She sounds sweet though.
 

mimi3908

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Cats take time to adjust to new place which I think you know since you have multiple cats already. And it sounds like your kitty is just going through that phase of introduction, even if she is more shy or terrified than the usual kitty. My kitty was also from a shelter and first day she was in my house, she bolted for the closet and stayed there for 24 hrs straight. I was afraid if she was ever going to come out and at one point, I even wondered if she was still "there"...but I thought she just wanted to get comfortable smelling and hearing the sounds around her before she ventured out. I did not rush to get her out and eventually she came out on her own when lights were turned off and no one was there. Every time we entered the room, she bolted for her safety net (closet) and we just sat there trying to call her out for periods of time without rushing it. We had food and litter box just for her and noticed she did use it. It took a good 3 or 4 days before we even handled her and about a few more weeks before she felt comfortable exploring in front of us. This was about 4 months ago. Today, she is one of the most social cats i've ever had and she and her other pal have the run of the house. I think suggestions by others regarding extra litter box and just let her be comfortable with food in her room for as long as needed are good ideas. We had separate food plate for 3 months and slowly allowed my kitties to eat together. Now they get along pretty well. No feliway plugs or anything. Just time and patience.
 
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