Cheryl Wicks: When it comes to a new kitty, patience is more than a virtue
May 18, 2017
When you bring home a new cat, it is important to understand that imposing your human perspective on things won't help acclimate kitty to its new environment.
The most important thing to a cat is smell.
We identify and take in information mostly through our eyes. Cats are born blind and deaf, but as tiny kittens already have a keen sense of smell. If you remove a kitten from nursing its mother and let it go back to the mom it will look for its own nipple.
If you wash off the Mother cat, the kittens will be confused when they cannot find their personal milk dispenser.
Do not force yourself on the cat. Let it come to you. This may take time. This is not a dog desperately seeking your attention and approval.
Even baby kittens can fight with each other when this confusion ensues.
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So much of a cat's behavior is related to their sense of smell and their sense of territory. Two cats, who have been living in peace, may hiss and spit when one comes home from the vet because it smells different and becomes unrecognizable. It is a good thing to take along the kitty's blanket when going to the vet so the scent can be re-established quickly and when the cat arrives home the others will recognize it.
Cats are not little dogs by any means. They view the world quite differently. Dogs are pack animals and seek comfort in establishing their role in the pack. Cats seek solace in solitude. This does not mean that cats cannot enjoy other cats, humans, dogs and other animals. They will typically seek safety by seeking a safe place to hide, not by running into the pack. Even the use of the term "pack" seems strange when you think of cats.
Of course cats have a wide range of behavior just as we humans do. I had a cat that I could take anywhere, as if she were a dog. She would walk on a leash with the dog and could go to a party and often went with me to class rooms and service clubs where I was speaking. Wilma would go around and meet everyone. By contrast, I had a stray cat in my neighborhood that I fed for two years before I could catch him. Over the period of the next six months this kitty became more and more connected to me and ultimately turned out to be the most loving animal I have ever had. I am so glad I was patient. I have never been loved by any creature like I was by this cat.
I am so glad I didn't miss this opportunity through impatience. What a wonderful kitty my Pudder was.
Cats are territorial. We are too. That's why we have doors and fences and other things to establish our space. Cats establish territory through scent. When you bring a new kitty home, you must be patient. If you are you will be richly rewarded. The kitty will acclimate to your new home the quickest if you give kitty a room where it is safe.
Let it get use to that area and you can keep expanding the area until your entire household is available to kitty. As you expand the area, put something with kitty's scent in the new area. If you want to introduce kitty to other resident cats put something with the scent of the other cat in the room where the new kitty is and also put something with the new kitty's scent where the longer term kitty is.
Do not force yourself on the cat. Let it come to you. This may take time. This is not a dog desperately seeking your attention and approval. Remember the dog wants to get into the pack as quickly as possible. The cat wants to establish it's territory and feel safe. If you move to a new home, the cat may ignore you for awhile until it can establish it's territory and comfort level, then it can get back to being your fun and loving pet.
If your kitty hides under the bed consider sitting in the room reading a book and ignoring the kitty. The more you let the kitty come to you the quicker you will develop a relationship. Every time the territory changes even with you there the kitty needs to re-acclimate to feel comfortable and feel OK about reestablishing relationships with the other cats, dogs and people.
Cats are wonderful companions and often times apartments and rental homes won't allow dogs, but will allow cats.
I have had both cats and dogs and have loved them all dearly and best of all been loved by them. When they are new to your home time and patience are essential.
Cheryl Wicks is the co-founder and president of Sammie's Friends.