What to Do if Your New Cat Goes into Hiding

When I volunteered as coordinator of the Seniors for Seniors Foster Program at a local animal shelter I often got calls from elderly clients who were upset, because their new cats were hiding and wouldn’t come out. They were understandably worried and upset, but this is completely normal cat behavior.

“It’s totally normal for cats to hide in a new environment,” said Executive Director of Michelson Found Animals Foundation Aimee Gilbreath. “By giving the cat time and space to adjust he will eventually become more social.”

In the beginning don’t be surprised if your newest family member only comes out to eat and use the litterbox when you’re not around. If you’re worried that your cat is hiding for health reasons, it’s important to speak with a veterinarian.

How to Make a New Cat Feel Comfortable and Safe

Gilbreath recommends confining your new cat to a small safe room such as a spare bathroom when you first bring her home. There are a couple of rooms where it’s not as safe for a new kitty, however.

Experts at Community Concerns for Cats in Walnut Creek, CA caution against confining a new cat in a bedroom where a shy cat can hide under the bed out of reach of your bonding efforts. Laundry rooms are hazardous for cats because they can easily hide behind or inside the workings of washers or dryers.

Once inside the room, Gilbreath recommends leaving the cat inside his carrier with the door open, so he can explore and then return to the safety of the carrier in his own time.

What to Do if Your New Cat Goes into Hiding

While it’s normal for new cats to hide, it can be upsetting to see them in distress. Here are some tips to help you more smoothly (and safely) introduce a new cat to your home.

Give Your Cat Some Space

Sit quietly in your cat’s room several times a day, reading or talking softly to him. Use a quiet, happy tone of voice to encourage the cat to come to you. If he continues to hide, leave the room and come back again in about half an hour.

If your cat is out of the carrier but hiding behind something you can slowly reach in and gently pet her. Don’t drag her out or force her to be held. Remember your goal is to build trust so be patient!

Talk to Your Kids.

Be sure any children in the household also understand the importance of giving the new cat time to settle in. They should use quiet voices and slow movements around the cat.

Don’t Rush It

Do not allow your new cat out of the safe room until she comes to you voluntarily. This can take a few weeks or a little longer depending on the cat. If she has access to the rest of the house before she trusts you, she may hide where you can’t reach her or even find her.

Cat Proof for Safety

When your new cat feels more comfortable and trusts you he will start to come to you voluntarily. Once this happens you can allow him to explore more rooms making sure that you cat proof them first. Allow him to explore a little at a time so that he can quickly retreat to the safe room if startled.

It’s best to confine your cat to the safe room at night until you’re confident that he can’t harm himself having access to the whole house. Once you’re comfortable giving him free range of the house, move the litter boxes and food where you’ve planned for them and be sure to show your cat the new location.

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71 comments

Marie W
Marie W20 days ago

thanks for sharing

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michela c
michela c26 days ago

Thanks

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h29 days ago

tyfs

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Renata B
Renata Babout a month ago

Susan Brandwein: I recognise myself in your story, really. You really notice that there is a "tic" in their minds and suddenly the behaviour is different. They are amazing. They are also very brave: some come with a heavy luggage of very bad experiences with humans but they always keep an open mind and - even if already old - they are always open to trust again.
Maureen G: they are very different one from another, very different natures. Some are very independent like our girl who is a cross between a Ninja and Indiana Jones, and others are extremely dependent and in great need of affection, like one of our males: he is always with me, wherever I go and our connection is so deep.

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Renata B
Renata Babout a month ago

Very good advice and remember that they are unique individuals: everyone is different. The last cat we took in was hidden for days in the special bonding room (especially if my husband was around, he trusted me more). There was a sofa-bed on which we slept in turn at night and it was when he dared to come on the bed with us. It took him something like 50 days to find the courage to go out of the room even if the door was open. If I tried to carry him he peed on himself on the threshold. So sad. He had no problems whether our other two cats and the dog visited him, but he was so scared by humans (men in particular) and so uncomfortable in the house.It's nearly 13 months he is with us and he feels comfortable to go wherever he wants and whenever he wants. In the evening - getting ready for bed, he goes on the bed waiting for me to arrive. Other cats took an hour to get used to the new people and new home. Respect their diversity and their own times. And ... be patient! :-)

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Cindy S
Cindy S3 months ago

thanks

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 months ago

Thanks

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Maureen G
Maureen G6 months ago

Never having a cat before...only dogs....I did have problems understanding my adopted older cat. It took time but now she feels at home and I have realized that cats have an independent nature and don't seem to need the interaction with people in the same way as a dog does.

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Susan B
Susan B6 months ago

My tuxedo kitten spent two weeks under the desk in the living room.We put food and water next to the desk.We were fortunate that when no one was around, she'd come out to use the litterbox. Several times a day I'd lie down by the desk and talk to her.I'd reach my hand out and she would rub her head against my fingers.

One night I heard noise in the diningroom When I turned on the light I saw her playing with small,red rubber ball,batting,chasing and pouncing.The next day she was out and exploring and making herself at home.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson6 months ago

Thank you!

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