Newly adopted senior cat - advice/reassurance required!

jcliney

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Hi guys, first time poster here hoping you can offer me some advice. I brought home a gorgeous 9 year old British shorthair on Friday. She has spent her life living on a rural farm with several other cats and one lady, but had tended to keep herself to herself and not socialise so much. The lady who owned her previously hoped that coming to a home where it was just me and her would be beneficial to her.

It has only been two days, but I just wanted to check that I shouldn't be worrying. I've set her up in her own little bedroom with a bed, her carrier, food, water, litter tray, scratching post, toys etc. She's only eaten a tiny bit of tuna and used the litter tray once since arriving, and is hiding underneath the back of the bed with the widest eyes I've ever seen on a cat! I realise trying to force her to interact or leave her hiding place isn't wise, so I've been spending time going in and sitting on the bed just reading or gently talking to her to get her more used to me. I've also plugged in a Feliway diffuser which I'm hoping will help calm her down in time.

How long before I should start worrying about the lack of food/water, considering it's been over 48 hours now? And have you any advice for how best I can make her feel safer and eventually coax her out, and how long this process may take?

Thanks in advance,
James
 

susanm9006

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Thank you for adopting this girl. Did you check with previous owner to see what cat food she was given? I would set out that exact food plus additional food, both kibble and wet. It may take another day before she gets hungry enough, and calm enough to eat a significant amount. You can try mixing pure chicken baby food in with the wet food to see if that improves her appetite. I would also put out a bit of loose catnip since if she eats it it will calm her some. Also, if there is a window in the room, leave the curtains and shade open so she can look outside.

Also, if you have a video camera, you can set it up so you can see what she is doing and how much she is coming out of hiding when you aren’t present. If you decide to buy one, Wyze cams are under $30 and easy to set up.

At this point all you should do is spend time sitting in the room talking to her. You can read a book aloud or just sit on the floor and have a short conversation. No eye contact, no reaching for her. It might be just a few days or a few weeks before she warms up to you, you need to just see how that goes. If you have no children or other pets, and you have removed any dangerous hiding places you may want to let her start exploring your place before she is fully comfortable with you.
 

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When we got adopted Greg and Arnold they hid under our beds for a week. We literally didnt see them. And then one day they both just suddenly accepted us and now we are inseparable. Be patient and give her lots of space.
 

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It seems like you are doing a really good job! It's great you adopted a senior cat :) The only thing I would advice on would be the food. Cats should only eat tuna occasionally and not as their main food. Not clear if you only gave her some to entice her to eat a bit or if this is the only thing she's being fed right now. I agree with asking the previous owner and putting out what she's used to eating. Other than that you're on the right track!
 

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You're doing everything just right. I will add that reading to her is GREAT, and reading to her while sitting on the floor is even better. It puts you down low. That means she can really see you, can see that you are being still, and you look far less threatening that you do when standing or sitting on furniture. It basically takes you down into her world.
 
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jcliney

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Hi guys, thanks for all your responses. Sure enough Saffie started eating after a few days and is now eating and drinking normally - I followed your advice and managed to find the same food she had been used to, so thank you!

Unfortunately she's still hiding under the bed the majority of the time; she comes out in the evening to sit on top of it but only if I'm not around. I'm spending a few hours a day (in spells) in the room with her, sitting working or quietly talking, but we don't seem to be making much progress. After two weeks am I being impatient? I can't imagine she's too happy spending so much time under a bed, but am beginning to fear this could take months rather than weeks..!
 

susanm9006

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Yes, it is possible that it will take longer than a few weeks. But the important thing is that she is making progress. You both have a long life ahead of you, so another month or so is small in comparison. She will get to trust you in her own time and you will see her blossom. That is well worth the wait.
 

calicosrspecial

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Great work and thank you for adopting her.

"After two weeks am I being impatient?" - Yes. Just do what you are doing, giving her love, letting her go at her own pace, feeding her good food, clean water, clean her litter box. Give warm and comfy bedding, a scratching post, a cat tree, a place she can look outside (safely).

Cats respond to love. Some may never be lap cats but they all get comfortable being loved. You are giving her a great life and giving her a safe environment.

Sometimes it does take time but as others have said, it is rewarding. I think she will be happy (and probably already is). Her life is really good now and I think she will build more trust and start feeling like this is now her home and her territory.

Keep up and the great work and THANK YOU for saving her life and giving her a great home!
 

pearl99

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I have been in this situation and yes it can take a long time. As above people have said you are doing everything right. You said there is a bed in the room, in the past I slept in the room with the new kitty so they could do a little checking me out while I was asleep on their terms. It helped. Is that possible for you? Could be just a nap instead of all night. Or all night if you want. It could be a positive experience for new kitty with you and help her realize you're okay.
 

ArtNJ

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A bedroom is the most common safe room people pick, and its sometimes a bit of a drag as the new cat hides under a bed for a while. Even with a kitten, sometimes it can take a week, and with older cats even longer. Maybe a storage type room would be a better safe room, but its actually not a bad thing for a scared cat to have a bed to hide under. Cats are amazing at finding weird places to hide, and if one doesn't provide the bed, someplace worse might be found, even if you set the cat up in a mostly empty storage type room. And if hiding for a bit helps them feel safe and build confidence, that isn't a bad thing right? So nothing for it but to follow the advice above to try and help the cat get comfortable. Ultimately, the cat will come out at its own pace, but it *will* come out if you are quiet and patient. So if you have a mostly empty room and want to think about that if you ever add another cat you can do that, but this time around you can join the literally millions of folks staring under a bed and waiting. You are in good company!
 

pearl99

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Cats are amazing at finding weird places to hide, and if one doesn't provide the bed, someplace worse might be found, even if you set the cat up in a mostly empty storage type room.
Oh yes! Waffles, the one I'm talking about, actually clawed the cover on the bottom of the box springs and hid up in the box springs. Now that's a good hiding place.
 

ArtNJ

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Oh yes! Waffles, the one I'm talking about, actually clawed the cover on the bottom of the box springs and hid up in the box springs. Now that's a good hiding place.
Seems to be common! I had that with kittens that weren't scared, just wanted a place to chill.
 
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jcliney

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Hi guys, thanks so much for your responses! It's reassuring to read this is common and largely to be expected.

Re sleeping in the room, I've not done a full night but I have done a few 2/3 hour naps, twice waking up to find Saffie heading back under the bed so she'd clearly come out to explore. I'd avoided doing a full night as I know she likes to sit on the bed (when I'm not there) and didn't want her feeling like I'd taken her spot off her as she's more active overnight. Completely guessing at cat psychology there, so I may well be wrong! I have a couple of other questions that I wonder if you'd be able to help with?

Firstly you mentioned being quiet and patient... I'm spending some spells in the room just quietly working on my laptop etc, but others reading/speaking gently to her (avoiding eye contact!). I was hoping this would help her adjust to my voice etc - I don't think she's been around males before - but if it may be winding her up even more please let me know and I'll stop that!

Also, I bought a few cat toys which she's so far shown absolutely no interest in - even when I'm out the room and she's clearly been exploring. Are senior cats just less into play, or is she likely to just be waiting until she's more confident? Was considering heading out today in search of some more toys (and maybe a cat tree to encourage an alternative to under the bed? She does have a 'shed' style soft bed already), but as a first time cat owner wondered if this would be a waste of time for an older lady!

I promise a few photos as soon as she's brave enough to come out for an extended period... don't hold your breath!

Cheers
 

ArtNJ

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Yes, some senior cats are hard to play with. Often there might still be one toy that works a bit, but you have to find it. Try a laser pointer, a wand/lure/ribbon toy as well as some ball variants -- crumpled paper (small works best), crumpled aluminum foil, and a ping pong or super ball can all be tried. But she might be hard to play with - doesnt indicate a problem or that she won't become affectionate, its just something that can happen. Also keep in mind that a cat needs a certain level of comfort to play, and she might play later. Its not always true that play can lure a cat out that isn't yet comfortable.

Hanging out in the room is exactly right. Just being nearby and being chill will do the work in time. I personally don't worry about staring, which you mentioned, and some people attach importance too. Just don't crowd her before she is ready.

Since play isn't working to lure her out, have you tried treats? A lot of cats love treats and that doesn't go away with age.
 
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jcliney

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Laser pointer is top of my shopping list for today! I've tried a mouse on a long string, but when that's been around her or under the bed there's no interest. I also got her some little balls with bells in but again, she's not gone near those despite me 'showing' her how they work a few times. I'll give some of your other suggestions a go as well, there's always paper and foil around.

Yeah I was surprised to read about having to completely avoid eye contact... I've had little bits with her making sure I do my slow blinks etc and she seems to return those, so she musn't have been too frightened. Will see how that goes.

Have I tried treats...!! Haha, most certainly have. I've tried three different flavours of Dreamies (Our Products | Dreamies™), but even when left out under the bed overnight, she walks straight past them to her food bowl instead. Are there any other treats cats tend to like that are different to these little kibble things?
 

ArtNJ

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Are there any other treats cats tend to like that are different to these little kibble things?
I've found the Temptations brand is *very* motivating for some cats, but not all cats like anything.
 

calicosrspecial

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Laser pointer is top of my shopping list for today! I've tried a mouse on a long string, but when that's been around her or under the bed there's no interest. I also got her some little balls with bells in but again, she's not gone near those despite me 'showing' her how they work a few times. I'll give some of your other suggestions a go as well, there's always paper and foil around.

Yeah I was surprised to read about having to completely avoid eye contact... I've had little bits with her making sure I do my slow blinks etc and she seems to return those, so she musn't have been too frightened. Will see how that goes.

Have I tried treats...!! Haha, most certainly have. I've tried three different flavours of Dreamies (Our Products | Dreamies™), but even when left out under the bed overnight, she walks straight past them to her food bowl instead. Are there any other treats cats tend to like that are different to these little kibble things?
"I've had little bits with her making sure I do my slow blinks etc and she seems to return those" - This is INCREDIBLY positive!!!! Returning the kisses is a sign of trust. This is FANTASTIC!!! You are building a bond and trust.

On the toys, it is really how they tend to move. So make them act like prey (like a bird or a mouse). Halting movements, bursts of movement, hiding around corners.

Try really stinky treats. Also, if you ever make chicken try some warm chicken meat (I use chicken thigh meat for cats). If she doesn't like treats (and not all cats do) it isn't that big of a deal.

"Re sleeping in the room, I've not done a full night but I have done a few 2/3 hour naps, twice waking up to find Saffie heading back under the bed so she'd clearly come out to explore. I'd avoided doing a full night as I know she likes to sit on the bed (when I'm not there) and didn't want her feeling like I'd taken her spot off her as she's more active overnight. Completely guessing at cat psychology there, so I may well be wrong " - Great that she is coming out exploring while you are there. She'll get used to it. I LOVE that she likes sitting on the bed. Your scent is there so she is enjoying her self making a positive association with your scent. GREAT. I would not worry about you "taking her spot". Not something she will be bothered by. She may even decide to come join you at some point.

"Firstly you mentioned being quiet and patient... I'm spending some spells in the room just quietly working on my laptop etc, but others reading/speaking gently to her (avoiding eye contact!). I was hoping this would help her adjust to my voice etc - I don't think she's been around males before - but if it may be winding her up even more please let me know and I'll stop that!" - This is great. Either way, just hanging out doing work showing her you are "cool". Or talking calmly, confidently and lovingly to her. It is all about letting her know you are a good thing and not threatening. Cats will respond to love which you obviously have for her. She is gong to be fine.

"Was considering heading out today in search of some more toys (and maybe a cat tree to encourage an alternative to under the bed? She does have a 'shed' style soft bed already), but as a first time cat owner wondered if this would be a waste of time for an older lady!" - Just be safe going out with Covid around. But when it is safe the more the better. A cat tree so she can go high (which builds confidence is terrific). And if you can have it safely so she can look outside (safe so it doesn't tip into the window etc) it is good. Also, a cat tree allows her to get her scent on something which increases "ownership". Scent = ownership. So scratching posts and warm and comfy bedding is very good to help her feel more secure "owning" more territory.

She is going to be fine in time. Just give her good food, clean water, clean her litter box, go at her speed (don't force attention let her initiate it) and let her know she is loved. She will come around. You are doing great!! Keep up the great work!!
 

pearl99

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I have used Bonito Flakes as a treat, they are dried fish flakes that I get on Amazon (large bag.) In a retail store they are really expensive (and a smaller bag), but if you want to try it, a smaller bag might be the best to see if she even likes them. You can't toss them like a solid treat because they are so thin, I put them on the floor or in a bowl.
I think it depends on the senior cat as far as play. I have 2 seniors (Ziggy and Gracie) who love to play and they like the Da Bird wand toys, crinkled paper or aluminum balls, ping pong balls, and even sheets of packing paper that come with my Amazon and Chewy shipping boxes. They pounce on the paper to make it crinkle, hide under it etc.
She may very well play more when she is more used to you and her new home.
Also with Waffles I held out a long wand toy to try to give some scratchies on his cheeks and once I could do that it helped him get used to me- associate scratchies with me.
Cat trees are the best. Waffles is a "low cat"- likes low much more and rarely goes high- but mine love their cat trees. So cat tree is a great investment!
I'm sure she will be just fine in time.
 
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jcliney

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Hello again everyone. I'm afraid after 2 months we don't have much improvement here with Saffie. She eats and drinks normally, and seems to explore the house when I'm asleep; I've even heard her come up onto my bed a couple of times whilst I'm asleep but as soon as I flinch she's back out to her room again!

Unfortunately, beyond that, nothing much has changed. She spends most of the time in her bed or behind the curtains in her bedroom, and will run straight back there if I'm present. I occasionally try to stroke her but she backs away and sometimes meows (not happily), so I've tried to limit this as I don't want to make her uncomfortable. I have spent hours a day at times in the room with her, quietly working on my laptop or reading. I've also given her plenty of space when I'm out at work. I give her treat (wet chicken food) every night and speak softly to her, and have tried play with just about every toy I can find - including trying some homemade ones! - none of which she's interested in, even when left alone with them overnight.

I have no intention of letting her go, but am at my wits end as to what more I can do to help the poor girl feel less frightened and enjoy her life a bit more. I've had no visitors for 2 months and tried everything I have been recommended to do and more... yet here we are!

Any advice, or reassurance of other kitties that took a while to come out of their shell, would be greatly appreciated. As far as I know she's not been abused but simply undersocialised.

Cheers
 

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Hi! May I ask what exactly are your expectations because she's doing incredibly well in just two months that she's able to come out and explore!

I've even heard her come up onto my bed a couple of times whilst I'm asleep
I can't express enough that this is HUGE for this baby to be able to do this!!

Keep doing what you're doing, ease up on your expectations and relish the fact that she's with you, safe, warm, fed and that she's in the process of learning that you're ok. You have time, don't be tense or stressed at all about this - she'll pick up on your emotions and that will put her off because she doesn't understand them.

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