Adopting a cat has been rough on my mental health

maggiandme

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I adopted a 4 year old cat a week ago from a shelter and it’s been really rough on my mental health so far. She has stayed hidden under the bed most of the week and only comes out to eat/use the litter box. She is confined to my bedroom right now as a safe space and will come out of the bed to explore at night or when she thinks I’m asleep in the bed. She will eat treats if I drop them close to her and will smell my hand if I bring it close to her but she will not let me touch her. She will play for a few seconds but go right back to sleep, she is not afraid of me clearly but shows no interest in me either.

She comes from a bad situation, her owner abandoned her in her carrier and then she moved a couple of shelters before ending up in a foster home where she seemed to adjust quickly before coming with me. Everyone says I should just leave her alone and let her adjust to the surroundings herself. The foster parent said I should spend as much time as I can just sitting next to her so she knows I’m safe. I’ve been doing that all week and she seems comfortable enough to go to sleep when I’m sitting next to her but never curious enough to come sniff me or anything. On the contrary, she will turn away from me and go to sleep.

All I’ve been doing is worry - I worry that she’s not comfortable under the bed; her foster parent said she doesn’t like being left alone for too long so I worry that when I’m just ignoring her she resents me more. But I find it difficult to just sit next her on the floor and see her butt go to sleep, it makes me very sad. I worry that I didn’t make the right decision in adopting her and she would be much happier living with someone who knows how to deal with pets. Let me be clear though, I’m not going to return her to the shelter - she is my cat.

I know I just need to give it time but this is my first pet and this wasn’t how I thought it’d be. It would be one thing if she was just afraid of me but this cat seems to have gotten comfortable under the bed, getting her food and water and not wanting to socialize. It also feels like an invasion of space; my room is not my safe space anymore - its her safe space.

I just want to know if anyone’s been through this - this anxiety. I’ve been crying all week and I just want to know how to get past this feeling of intense sadness. I’m willing to give her as much as she wants but I want to know how to compartmentalize her in my brain so I can function normally.
 

ArtNJ

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Ok, I'm not trying to be mean, but I'm a blunt person and maybe it will help you. You adopted an adult cat with completely unreasonable expectations of how much time it might take to develop a bond, and now its stressing you out. Even kittens, which bond with humans the easiest can sometimes take a week or so to adjust to a new home and people. I don't know this cat's background, and that does matter in terms of what to expect, but regardless its totally routine for an adult cat to take several weeks or longer to trust. You should see some progress much quicker, but many cats will remain somewhat anxious and somewhat aloof for months or years, slowly improving over time.

You've been given good advice I think. Just chill quietly in close proximity to the cat and don't try and force anything. Time will work its magic. You can try to lure the cat out with toys or treats, but its mostly about patience.

In hindsight, a home raised kitten would have been a much better choice for you given your anxiety. You say you are committed to keeping the cat, which is admirable in the abstract, but just think about the commitment and whether you can handle it. No shame in giving a cat back to a no kill shelter if a kitten would be a much better match for you.
 

LTS3

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A week is hardly enough for many cats to adjust to a new home. And you need time to adjust to have a new furry roommate. These TCS articles have tips on how to help a cat adjust:


Some cats may need weeks before they settle into a new home. Cats with a back history, such as yours, may take longer. You need to have patience. Spend time in the bedroom going about your normal day to day routine and talk to the cat but don't push it.
 

Jcatbird

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I know the situation all too well. Maybe I can help by telling you of another cat. I had a cat who had also been passed from one place to another. She simply sort of shut down. She did not feel she could bond because she felt she was in another temporary home. As it turned out, she went through six before I met her. I was able to convince my mother to let me try with her. At first she did just as you describe. She wasn’t terrified. It was more like she felt unloved. Unconnected. I just didn’t give up. I laid down beside her and just talked or read to her. I offered treats from my hand. I also felt sad for her. I put toys beside her and sang to her. I put my bathrobe for her to lay on. Finally she allowed me to start brushing her. Just a couple of strokes at first. Then more and more. She began to enjoy the soft strokes and I began to hold the brush so I could also run my fingers down her back and then beside her face. I kept telling her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her. Then one day, after she had come to understand that there would be no more changes and she could trust me to keep loving her, she came and laid beside me. I didn’t move except to gently stroke her. She gave the tiniest bit of a purr. I kept up the routine I had been doing with her. Then one day I found her asleep beside me in the bed. When she woke up she stretched and reached a paw towards me. That was the turning point. We were inseparable after that. It just takes calm , patience and keeping a routine with her. Try hand feeding her something especially yummy. Gerber 2nd foods all meat baby food is usually a great bonding food. Feeding her and laying , belly up, beside her can be a very peaceful bonding time for you both. Maybe she will lick some baby food from your finger. Short stroking pets across her ears or face can imitate the sort of affection a mother cat , or any loving cat would give. If you can imagine being taken from one home to another, you may understand her hesitancy to put her heart into another. Please don’t feel bad. She will come to understand that you will not give up on her, abandon her or stop loving her. Give her time to trust. Once she does, you will be greatly rewarded. Cats that are bounced around just don’t know what to expect next. When she knows she is finally home, you should she a huge change in her. My heart is right there with you both. Thank you for choosing her because she needed you more than most. Please do keep us updated. There are other ways to help with bonding but I think you have the perfect heart to accomplish this. :alright:
 

gammycatpurrson

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So, ArtNJ, the previous commenter was concerned about being too "blunt," but the reply was in fact quite fair. So, permit *me* to be blunt, instead: do you have a therapist? I can identify with your obsessive worry about this cat, and all that crying😢, and from personal experience, I can assure you, your emotional roller coaster derives from the renewal of some unhappy experiences in your past. Do you identify with this cat's history of repeated mistreatment and abandonment? I can relate, fer sher! 😥 So many of us can. And having someone to talk with about it can help ease the anxiety, and put stuff into perspective.🙂 The happier her purrson is, the happier the cat!😸

Long ago, I determined that, like a FB post I just saw the other day, coincidentally: 'All animals are therapy animals. Most just work undercover.' 😸

It would take more time and space than we have here for me to recount ALL that my animals (cats, dogs, mice, wild birds, chipmunks, deer, and so on) have taught me about being a better person.

One of the most important character traits they have helped me cultivate is PATIENCE. Cats are NOT furry little four-legged people. Cats are fascinating creatures with their own language and their own agenda. Be quiet and just OBSERVE what your new little darling 🐈 does, get to know her on HER TERMS. Obviously, she has come to a place where a hooman (visit lolcats dot com if you want to see some of the funniest fotos of cats with really funny & smartalecky captions! The expression "toopy hooman" often appears there, because, well... in the eyes of an imperious feline, people really are jus' kinda' "toopy" LOL 😸) sincerely wants to give her a good life. Congratulations, well done! 😃😃😃

It could take her WEEKS just to begin to get used to you. And the fullness of her personality will only become clear to you over time, so, give time time. No doubt, you can relate: from a lifetime of instable relationships, she has TRUST ISSUES. Can you relate? I most surely can.😉

Keep the litter box clean, feed & water her--hey, you're doing great so far!-- watch the things she does, let her come to you. I've found speaking softly and lavishing praise with lots of superlatives seems particularly effective: "Aren't you the MOST GORGEOUS kitty I've ever seen?! How beautiful you are! I'm so lucky to have you! I hope you feel lucky to be here! I'll try to make this the most delightful experience you've ever enjoyed, and I am going to try to create a home where you truly, finally feel LOVED." 🥰😘😻

I have a friend, Linda, who adopted a very grumpy streetcat she named Hagar The Horrible. Every morning, before she went to work, she kissed him on the forehead while exclaiming, ILOVEYOU!!!😽ILOVEYOU!!!😽ILOVEYOU!!!😽 It took TIME, but Hagar became a HONEY!!! True story.

Regardless whether they understand the words, your intention will come through in your tone of voice. Also, learn about (i.e., Google) how looking a cat in the eyes and making a slow blink can help communicate your affection. I've also noticed they will slowly yawn really wide to say, "I love you," but when I yawn back, well, I'm not sure what they think!🙄 (Um... "toopy hooman"?!)

Lastly, at some point, you might consider adopting a friend and playmate for her. As wonderful as you are, she may be very happy to have another cat to gossip with. In 35+ years of being cat-owned, I've found that even cats who don't have much to do with one another are comforted by the presence in the house of another one of their own.

It is so good of you to adopt a troubled shelter cat!😺 There are so many, and each one adopted makes room for another to be taken in, made healthy, and adopted. Yay!

Hang in there! The best is yet to come.🦁
 

arr

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Everyone has given you great advice. I would like to add that adopting a pet is always somewhat stressful, even under the best conditions - experienced pet owner, well adjusted cat. You say you are a first time cat owner and clearly this cat has had a difficult past, so it’s completely understandable that you feel anxious and depressed. It’s just such a huge change and at first it almost feels like they don’t belong there, your routine of life that you were accustomed to has completely changed. For those of us with anxiety and depression it can be triggering.

I can tell you it will definitely improve. Its going to take more than a week for sure. Without going into my own story too much here, we took in a stray mama cat and two of her kittens this summer and just this week my husband and I have been saying how it seems like Penny has finally settled in. Its like she finally understands that she is staying here now and she can get comfortable with us. She is really a different cat than the one we took in. And it took her about 3 months, just to give you a time frame. And on top of that, the anxiety and depression about the cats is gone, was gone a long time ago in fact. We just enjoy them so much, it’s hard to remember our life before the cats came.

As best you can, try to take everything everyone has said and feel encouraged and optimistic about the future. Your new kitty will pick up on your feelings and she will feel encouraged too. And also try to be accepting of who she is, however she ends up being. Try not to have preconceived ideas about how a cat should be. For example, I want nothing more than for Penny to sit on my lap but she won’t and maybe she never will. But I’ve accepted it and enjoy doing other things she likes such as being groomed and playing. Once your cat is comfortable and settled, she will let you know she loves you in her own way, but you will know.
 

Hellenww

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Yes, average adult cat can take a while to get comfortable and your girl has been through trauma so it could take longer. You've been given great advise.

Some good points she is eating, drinking, and using the litter box. Coming out when you sleeping is a wonderful thing. She's scared but not immobilized by it.

Your doing good spending time with her. Try not focusing on her. Just be there doing what you would normally do in your room maybe just gentler. If you need to read something, text,email etc try read them out loud. It will feel silly but it will show kitty you are not a threat.
 

Katen2Kits

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maggieandme, I totally get where you're coming from. Like you I was a first time pet-owner when we rescued our two 1y old cats, Lucky and Molly, 3.5 years ago.
The two most important things I learned:
Firstly, it has taken them both 3.5 years become comfortable living with us. But they still have a way to go and I fully expect them to continue growing even more confident over the next 10 years. An example of how long it takes: for the first time since we rescued them, Molly climbed onto my lap last week. She has always shied away from doing this. It took her over 3 years but she got there in the end! I didn't pressure her. I just let her develop her confidence on her own terms, in her own time. So progress (especially with a traumatised cat) can be really slow. But you will be rewarded for your patience in the end.
Secondly: you cannot take your cat's behaviour personally. It really is all to do with her and her struggle to cope with a new environment and has very little to do with you, as long as you are fulfilling all her daily needs. I have learned so much since getting our two beautiful cats and the most important lesson was for me to leave myself and my emotions out of it and to focus on how best to make both kitties feel secure in their new home. Cats will pick up on your anxiety and distress (especially around them) and it just makes them feel even more uncertain and anxious.
You will get there. You just need to chill and allow your kitty to find her way in her new world, but on her own timescale.
 

lizzieloo

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I can tell you have a really big heart and someone who has a strong desire to be a loving, attentive cat owner. It must feel awful to have to worry that you are doing things wrong and shouldn't have adopted her and that she would be better with another. It sounds like you are feeling very overwhelmed and stressed.

And that's okay and normal. I am on my 13th foster kitten (almost all started out feral) and in the first few days to 2 weeks I would start to regret taking them, feeling like I wasn't experienced enough and that I would ruin them and they would never be adoptable! I would do a bunch of repetitive research and reach out to a couple people who are very experienced in cats and they gave me the same advice: be patient and take it slooooow. The advice always paid off and I would start to see improvement over time, sometimes in leaps and bounds, other times super gradual. And oh is it rewarding to help a pet feel trust.

I would advise you to take it slow and lower your expectations. It could take a month or two for her to show you her soul and it will be very rewarding when she does! I would bring in treats or a bit of wet food frequently when you are in the bedroom for the positive association. I buy this liquid tuna stuff that they love to lick off my finger while I pet them when they are comfortable to get close enough to build the bond. If your bedroom is your safe place don't feel like you have to give it up. I think it's good to be in there for quietish activities; reading on your bed, watching netflix at a low-moderate volume (at first), any hobbies you have, talking on the phone etc. It gets her used to your lifestyle and shows her that nothing bad happens when she hears these things. I often read to my fosters to get them used to my voice, especially when I feed them. And don't worry about your cat feeling comfortable under the bed - she picked that spot because she feels the MOST comfortable under there. Over time she will come out and develop favourite spots.

The fact that you are concerned for her well being and comfort tells me that you are probably the right home and once she feels adjusted she will be very happy with you.

Make a cuppa tea, take some deeps breaths do something positive for your mental health as you both adjust and be patient, you got this!!
 

Serenityinaz12

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I don't know, I think it took at least 2-3 months for my cat and I to get in sync, then a bit longer to truly "bond". It's another living thing, by adopting it you have to accept that in some ways the cat may put you out of what you want to do from time to time or may not do exactly what you want. In many ways it's actually like having a small child it's a responsibility and they can be super cute and adorable most of the time but also pains in the ass occasionally. But, you learn to accept it because the positive outweighs the negative, by a longshot actually.

I think the entire first month I had my cat, also first one, I was scared the cat wouldn't bond to me but 4 years later we are incredibly bonded and in sync. I've slowly trained him via endless repetition and even taught him like 15-20 human words via endless repetition that he always reacts to accordingly. Just hang in there and do your best to love without expectations of what the cat will do back. Just love it and care for it and it will feel loved and warm to you for sure.

If that helped cool, if not feel free to just ignore all of it.
 
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maggiandme

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Thank you so much for all of your wonderful advice and support!! Maggi is slowly coming out of her shell, she sleeps by the foot of my bed now instead of under it and greets me and my roommate with headbutts often - although if I try to pet her then the claws come out 😆 but thats okay. She's being a brave, good girl. Unfortunately though it looks like she might have FHS. She is always either scared of her tail or angry at it. She has twitchy skin and is always hissing/growling at the tail. The shelter/foster parent thought she was hissing at the matted fur on her back but we got that removed and she still gets the hissing "attacks" 10-12 times a day unprompted. I have to take her to vet to get this/anything else could be diagnosed. The big issue here is that she is deathly scared of the carrier. I've got her some calming treats, hopefully those would be helpful. Thank you so all your help!! :)
 

cataholic07

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Have her kennel out all the time with the opening opened and a bed or blanket in there plus treats in and around it. Just having it always out means she wont freak out that its only seen before a vet visit.
 

sabian

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I can't really add much more than the previous members have already. You've got some great advice from some very knowledgeable members and, it sounds like your already seeing some progress.

As far as the cat carrier I would literally feed her in the carrier. I don't know what and how your feeding her but, like cataholic07 cataholic07 said, leave the carrier out and the door open. You may want to start out by putting the food in front of the carrier but try to eventually move it in the carrier. I free feed Manny dry food and at night he gets wet food as a treat. When I give him his treat at night I put the bowl in the back of the carrier so he has to go completely in to eat it. It works like a charm! Even after taking him to the vet he doesn't hesitate to go in and eat his treat. I believe the crate should be big enough for them to sit up in and not so small they're all hunkered down to be able to get in it. That's just my opinion but, I see cats in carriers and it's literally like they're crammed in they're like sardines in a can. If I was a cat I would be freaked out in there to. You want them to relate the carrier to something positive and I'm sure her experience with a carrier at this point is " oh no, where am I going to wind up now ".

Admittedly I didn't read through the thread completely. I just kind of read through quickly so this may have been mentioned but, try to chill out and stay calm around her. Cats will pick up on what your feeling. If your anxious and frustrated, she's gonna be anxious and frustrated too. Let her do things in her own time and she'll come out of her shell eventually. Even if you've had a bad day at work or a fight with a significant other or whatever stop, and think about what your doing around the cat. You can't yell, slam doors, raise your voice around them without it effecting them. Try and put yourself in they're place and how you would feel if the roles were reversed.

I've been fortunate in the past I guess with cats. I've always had outgoing cats that had no fear and were actually just goof balls. I had a def cat and I could take him to band practice with 20 people there and he just went in there like, hey what's up ya'll! Everybody would pet him. The loud music didn't faze him and he would eventually find a place and go to sleep. He loved riding in the car too. He was just a hoot. I had a purebred Maine Coon and he was the same way, he just didn't like the loud music. I raised them both from kittens though.

Manny that I have now. He was a rescue and I got him when he was a yr and a half old. He was abandoned and probably abused at some point. He had been in foster for a yr. The foster actually told me that she was at her wits end and didn't know what else to do. He was a good cat but he just wouldn't open up. I think they had a busy household and he just couldn't handle it. So I took him and he hid behind the water heater in the basement for a day. He hid under the bed for 3 days and when he did come out the least little thing would send him back under the bed. I have a couple of doors that don't latch unless you close them hard. You don't have to slam them but you have to put a little force behind it. That would send him under the bed. It doesn't faze him now. He use to stare at the basement door like he was afraid someone was going to come through it and get him. He doesn't do that now. When someone comes over he will still go and hide but, after about five minutes he'll come down to see what going on and usually hang out. He's cautious of whoever is there and may jump if they make a sudden move but, he goes around people now. I've had him 3 yrs now and he still has issues and he also continues to improve on an ongoing basis.

You have to make sacrifices sometimes on they're behalf and it can be a hassle sometimes but, I can guarantee you that the pride and satisfaction you feel, the appreciation they show, and the love and affection they give back, far out ways the sacrifices you make. It's changed me as a person.
 

lmdisalle

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I adopted a 4 year old cat a week ago from a shelter and it’s been really rough on my mental health so far. She has stayed hidden under the bed most of the week and only comes out to eat/use the litter box. She is confined to my bedroom right now as a safe space and will come out of the bed to explore at night or when she thinks I’m asleep in the bed. She will eat treats if I drop them close to her and will smell my hand if I bring it close to her but she will not let me touch her. She will play for a few seconds but go right back to sleep, she is not afraid of me clearly but shows no interest in me either.

She comes from a bad situation, her owner abandoned her in her carrier and then she moved a couple of shelters before ending up in a foster home where she seemed to adjust quickly before coming with me. Everyone says I should just leave her alone and let her adjust to the surroundings herself. The foster parent said I should spend as much time as I can just sitting next to her so she knows I’m safe. I’ve been doing that all week and she seems comfortable enough to go to sleep when I’m sitting next to her but never curious enough to come sniff me or anything. On the contrary, she will turn away from me and go to sleep.

All I’ve been doing is worry - I worry that she’s not comfortable under the bed; her foster parent said she doesn’t like being left alone for too long so I worry that when I’m just ignoring her she resents me more. But I find it difficult to just sit next her on the floor and see her butt go to sleep, it makes me very sad. I worry that I didn’t make the right decision in adopting her and she would be much happier living with someone who knows how to deal with pets. Let me be clear though, I’m not going to return her to the shelter - she is my cat.

I know I just need to give it time but this is my first pet and this wasn’t how I thought it’d be. It would be one thing if she was just afraid of me but this cat seems to have gotten comfortable under the bed, getting her food and water and not wanting to socialize. It also feels like an invasion of space; my room is not my safe space anymore - its her safe space.

I just want to know if anyone’s been through this - this anxiety. I’ve been crying all week and I just want to know how to get past this feeling of intense sadness. I’m willing to give her as much as she wants but I want to know how to compartmentalize her in my brain so I can function normally.
Hi there!
You are not alone!!
You need to give yourself some grace and let yourself feel like a worried pet parent instead of fighting these feelings. I go through very similar bouts of anxiety caused by worrying about my cats. What helps me is writing down facts for myself to re-read when I am doubting my ability to be a good cat parent.
I have had to go to therapy sessions before that are based around issues with my cat and how to handle it (her aggression, putting her on meds, etc.)
-Cats are resilient. She will learn to trust you.
-You are a good pet parent and she is SO lucky to have you care this much about her
-You are not going to do anything to harm her. She is in a safe place now

Keep your head up :)
 
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