My Adopted Cat Is Afraid of Me

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger gives tips for getting cat used to his favorite person.

By Marilyn Krieger

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Q: I recently adopted a 3-year-old Maine Coon named Paulie from my neighbor. Paulie lived under her bed for two years because there were two dogs who terrorized him. I've only had him a month and a half and we've made progress. He’s very affectionate and gets on well with my other cats — especially my male cat, Dash. They race around the house together and curl up together. Our problem is that during the day, Paulie refuses to come out from under my bed when I'm there. So, I've been going to bed at 7 for the past month so that he will come out.

A: Before I address your question, I want to thank you for rescuing Paulie. Because of your kindheartedness, he will be able to live a happy life, free from stress.

It’s easy to understand why Paulie doesn’t feel safe to venture out from under the bed while you are in the room with him. He’s lived most of his life in terror, seeking refuge from the two dogs by hiding under a bed. It will take time and patience, but eventually Paulie will feel safe and secure during the day in the rest of the house.

You want Paulie to see you as the provider of everything wonderful, from food and treats to play. Start by putting boxes and paper bags with no handles around his room. Turn them so that they face walls or furniture. As Paulie starts to feel a little braver, these will provide him safe havens to go when he starts venturing out from under the bed.

It is important to frequently visit him in his room during the day when he’s hiding. Make sure you are always armed with special treats that he adores. Whenever you visit him, lob a little treat under the bed to him. Don’t try to pet him or try to get him out from under the bed. Instead, sit either on the floor or on a chair at a distance from the bed. Bring a good book with you and sit and read it, occasionally tossing a couple of treats into his hiding place. After he regularly eats the treats, you can start throwing the food a little farther from him and closer to the entrance of his sanctuary. When he is brave enough to come near the entrance of his hiding place, put the treats in a box positioned next to the bed. Once he is comfortable with eating treats in the box you can work with him to eat out in the open. The process may take a few days, weeks or months.

Since he enjoys playing, become his play buddy, encouraging him to play by using a fishing pole toy or a feather wand toy. Good times to play are in the early morning and in the evening when he’s typically the most active. Note: Place the fishing pole toys out his reach when you are not there to supervise the play.

Consistency and schedules will also help Paulie become a more secure cat. Schedule the play sessions and his meals at the same times every day so he looks forward to both the feedings and interacting with you, his favorite person.

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Reader Comments

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

3/29/2013 3:11:32 PM

Nora -- Being scared after seeing your new home for only one day is nothing to be worried about. Just like some people, some cats need time to adjust to new places.

If this behavior continues, check out these tips for making your cat feel at home: LINK

nora    harrisburg, PA

3/28/2013 6:52:37 PM

my father and I adopted a cat that had been retunred to the shelter because his previous owners had a cat that did not like him. She is one years old. We got her today. She is fine with me but does not like my dad. How long does it take them to adjust. I also don't live with my dad I got to school

Ann    Portsmouth, NH

9/17/2010 7:50:36 AM

My cat is not afraid of me, but of any other human that comes into our house. He immediately hides as soon as he hears the doorbell or phone, even sometimes if the noise is on tv. We recently moved in with my husbands parents to help them and Colby watches them and will get close to them but will not let them pet him. I don't know of any abuse, but he disappears quickly and doesn't come out until the people are gone. If I try to hold him and go up to someone, he rips out of may arms and runs. He is very loving to me and my husband and my daughter. Is there anything I can do to help him. He is 4 and has been this way the last 3 years.

Janet Long    Iuka, MS, MS

3/14/2010 9:22:30 AM

I have a 3 yr old Manx (Calico Short hair female) and a 3 yr old rag doll ( Black and white long hair male) I need to find homes for them. The Manx does not have a tail not even a bob. She is declawed. She is so sweet and very smart. The rag doll is laid back and friendly. He has his claws. Please call me if you can find someone. 662-423-3794.......Ask for Janet

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