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The Behavior Department: Helping the Scaredycats

Give cats a chance in their new homes by preparing adopters for reclusive getting-to-know-you behaviors

Give cats a chance in their new homes by preparing adopters for reclusive getting-to-know-you behaviors

istockphoto.com/Eimantas Buzas
As many of us know all too well, adopters expecting cats to curl up pillowside the first night in a new home may end up sorely disappointed. Creatures of habit, some cats go borderline-catatonic when plunked down in an unfamiliar environment, diving under the bed or behind the sofa and barely emerging for days. At the shelter where I work, the Town Lake Animal Center in Austin, Texas, adopters who don’t know any better sometimes return their frightened pets.

That's unfortunate—because in many cases, the cats have simply been introduced to the family and house too quickly, without being given enough time to adjust to the surroundings. By confining cats in the beginning and then gradually introducing them to their domain and other animals in residence, adopters can help these frightened animals ease more comfortably into their new lives.

We in shelters work hard to reduce stress for cats and help adopters succeed. We have limited time with new adopters, and they, in their excitement, may have limited attention spans. Still, despite the realities of the animal shelter environment and the excitement of the adoption process, we can help ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

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