When progress is LOST : (

chickpea616

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I started fostering Scarlet (12 year old) in March of this year. By May, we knew we wanted to keep her and adopted her. My bedroom has always been her safe place - she would stay in there 24/7 (I had posted about this before - she didn't want to leave the room, but we would visit her, interact with her, and generally try to spend as much time as possible with her in there). I put up a baby gate and mesh gate and would leave the door open so that she could hear and see the "sounds of the household" and also view my 3 resident cats through the gate. All was well....

Fast forward to a month or so ago: Scarlet was spending more and more time directly up at the gate and seemingly showing signs of wanting to come out. I removed the baby gate, blocked the stairway (so the other cats couldn't get up), and let her explore the upstairs - which she loved! She loved going into my kid's room - would spend most of her time in my son's room napping, exploring, etc. She would visit me in the upstairs bathroom while I was getting ready in the morning - the only time she would return to her safe place (my bedroom) was for eating or at night for sleeping.

On Thursday, everything was normal - she was "out and about" upstairs, my other cats were blocked from coming up (as always), etc. Then around noon or so my daughter noticed that the gate we use to block the other cats was ajar. She didn't think much of it at the time, simply closed it and we went about our day (after doing a quick check to see if any cat had gotten upstairs). Starting in late afternoon, Scarlet would ONLY be in the safe room and wouldn't come out. Then she hid in the bathroom for a while, behind the toilet....she seemed SO scared to come out. As of today (Saturday) she's still in my room, acting scared of anything near the door.

I'm so frustrated and sad at this: we were doing SO well! It took us at least a month to get her to make her way out of the room, and now to see her move backwards in progress like this is upsetting. She will also now only eat when I'm sitting next to her, and I feel really bad about this turn of events. Has anyone had this happen before (especially with a "scaredy cat" - which I'm assuming she is)....??
 

moxiewild

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You’re so sweet. Thank you so much for adopting a senior! 🖤

I know how discouraging this is, but please don’t worry too much. These things take time.

For poorly socialized and/or insecure cats - especially older ones - setbacks are to be expected. This is a normal part of the process, but she will recover.

Have you been actively trying to do proper introductions with the cats? Sometimes it’s not enough to just let them be casually exposed to each other, and she may have had a run in with one of your resident kitties that frightened her.

She could also have just not been ready for her world to expand yet, and may have been spooked if she left her safe space a bit.

She will rebuild confidence though!

You can help her by fostering proper introductions with your resident cats, having lots of interactive playtime with her, and providing her with lots of environmental enrichment like cat trees and shelves and toys. You can also try clicker trainer, which is incredibly mentally stimulating and helps a lot of cats feel more confident (as well as bonded to their owners).

Keep up the good work. If you’re starting to feel discouraged and hopeless, you might be comforted to know that many of us in the Caring for Strays and Ferals subforum here have managed to socialize adult feral cats, with many a setback. It can be done! :)
 

Mamanyt1953

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GIve her some time to recover, then start again. The lovely thing about cats is that, short of a situation of real abuse (CERTAINLY NOT the case here), you almost always get a do-over. It can take time, but it will come.
 
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chickpea616

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UPDATE (5 days later): Scarlet finally came out briefly 2 days ago, then yesterday was out way more, and today couldn't wait to leave the room this morning ;). Thanks for the kind words and encouragement - if/when it happens again, I'll feel more confident that we can deal with the setback.
 

Mamanyt1953

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If it does happen again, I'm betting that it doesn't take her so long to recover. Each time she gets spooked and then calms, she learns that nothing really horrid happened, and her confidence grows just a bit.
 
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