This is an extract from an email I received from a PoC visitor:
My new cat is hiding from me. Since I brought her home a few days ago she has hidden under my sofa almost all the time. I have to feed her by putting really nice food down beside the sofa. She refuses to come out. How long will my cat hide from me?
This is what happened to Charlie when he joined me:
I brought him home from my mother’s home. My mother had died 2 weeks earlier. He defecated and peed in his carrier on the way in the car because he was so nervous. When we got home he dived under my desk. My desk has very little space under it. It was a huge struggle for him to get into the space. After about three days he came out with difficulty and stayed on my bed for another three days at least. He would hide under the pillows. He was fed on my bed. The food was brought to him. Then and only then did he gradually loosen up and start to behave “normally”. There was still a long way to go…(Michael).
I think my experience answers this lady’s question. It is normal for new cats to hide so it makes sense to provide something for your new cat to hide under before you go and get him if nothing suitable is available.
However, I have to mention different outcomes when we (my ex-wife and I) adopted young kittens from a neighbor in the 1980s. They made themselves at home quickly and chased around playing. Is this unusual? Probably not because they were siblings. Each gave the other confidence.
Also, when I rescued Binnie from the street outside my home, she spent the first day and night on the dinning room table and after that she was more or less settled in. At the time we had two cats: Missie and Boo Boo, the ones referred in the above pararagraph. So, I don’t believe all new cats hide.
However, it is commonplace for a new cat or kitten to hide when brought to a strange home. Experts say a new cat should be confined to a single room of the home. However, I feel that you don’t have to force this on a cat because the cat will decide for himself. However, everything he needs should be within easy reach in the room where he hides.
Should you try and interact with your new cat as he hides from you? No, is the sensible answer but once again there are no set answers. To let him get used to his new surroundings in his own time without a time scale being forced upon him is probably best. It makes sense to spend time in the room with your new cat to acclimatise him to your presence but this should be done without forced interaction. It will make him feel more relaxed that way.
Talk to him gently and reassuringly. Give him an opportunity to smell your scent. These things help him to get used to you and feel confident in his new home.
The occasional play session might loosen him up a bit and help him become more relaxed. Also try and stroke him and make contact with him in a gentle non-intrusive way, while being always ready to back off if he shows anxiety. Discovering his favourite food and giving it to him will also help with confidence.
Things will gradually change and he will come around – guaranteed. It is about patience. Humans have a tendency to be impatient seeking instant or quick results. Cat behavior is at a more natural pace.
I also remember a stray who came to me: Pippa. She came inside and hid under a table in the living room. After a while she ended up on my bed (see picture).
In strange places with strange people – giants to a cat – a cat will hide until she feels confident that the place is safe.
How long does a cat take to settle into a new home? I would say about 6 months and more sometimes. The same as for humans.