My wife and I are 81 years old and have always had a cat. We wanted a new one for companionship because we are alone, so we answered an ad in the paper for 8-week-old kittens.
It was a home in the country. The kittens were kept in a basement room. There were no windows and the door was shut. The women said they had received their first shots from the vet. The kittens were very well-fed, so we took a little female.
When we got her home, she was terrified; that was to be expected. She finds a curtain or a small corner to hide in. After a night during which she cried constantly, we noticed she might have eaten a small amount of dry food but had not used her litter box. When my wife tried to pick her up, the kitten hissed at her and raised her paws as if to strike. The kitten was shaking all over from fear. The cleaning woman started the vacuum cleaner and the kitten started screaming.
We have never had this happen to us before, but we have a theory. The kitten is only 8 weeks old and has never been introduced to family living. Every noise or commotion is a new experience. Our question to you is, will she ever get over it? What can we do to help her? She will not let us approach. We know this has been less than 24 hours since she got here, but we could use some guidance and would love to keep her. — Richard and Gloria, Kenosha, Wisconsin
Dear Richard and Gloria,
Your theory is probably correct. This kitten probably had very little socialization, but she also is being exposed to her new environment too quickly. Kittens are still babies and require help adjusting to their new homes.
The good news is, there is hope. Begin by placing her in a quiet room with her litter box and food for a few days (or even a week), so she can rest and settle into her new home. Spend time in the room with her. Read a book, drink some coffee or watch TV, so you can be near her but not focused on her. Spray your clothes with feline pheromones before going in as this will comfort her. Put a feline pheromone plug-in in the bedroom as well to lower her stress levels.
When you sit with her, don’t try to pick her up. Let her come to you. When she does, don’t reach out for her. Talk to her softly. If she purrs, you can slowly pet her. Otherwise, just talk to her and let her know she is safe. If she gets into your lap, let her sleep there for a minute or two before trying to pet her, and don’t overdo it. Just letting her cuddle on your lap will begin to build her trust in you.
Once she calms down and gains confidence in her new surroundings (and this could take some time), let her out of the room for short periods to explore other rooms in your home. She needs time to adjust to her space and not feel overwhelmed. Put some cardboard boxes around the house so she has places to hide if she feels insecure.
If she is spending time with you, is getting used to your soft voices, has great places to hide and has the comfort of feline pheromones in the home, she will begin to feel better and trust you and her surroundings more. If you give her up, she will be traumatized again, so please be patient with her and give her the time she needs to feel secure in her new home.
I heard a cat outside my hotel screaming like crazy loud. Is that good or bad or just a cat in heat? — Norma, from the road
What you likely heard was either a male cat fighting with another male cat over territory and/or a female cat in heat, or it was the cries of a female in heat. Either way, it’s startling to hear these cries, and one of the many reasons why the humane community encourages trap-neuter-return programs for feral cats.
By trapping feral cats and sterilizing them, it not only reduces the number of kittens born on the street, but the caterwauling that comes with mating.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.