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Pet World: Older dog, traumatized cat both need time to get used to new homes

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

We adopted our cat from the local shelter when she was just a year old. She arrived at the shelter with five newborn kittens. She barely survived. Her kittens found homes and she went into foster care to gain some weight.

She’s still small, but healthy. She likes her food and treats and uses her litter box. She is not real social, but I think she likes me, as she follows me around the house. She is incredibly vocal and “meows” more than any cat I’ve ever known but stops once she is settled in for the night. She’ll snuggle with me for a few minutes at a time, then tries to bite me. The same with my son. She has yet to let us hold her; she will scratch. She cleans herself almost obsessively. She does not play much, and she sleeps a lot.

Her foster told us that she was aggressive with another cat at her home, so she would like being an only feline. My question is, is she happy here or would she be happier in another household?

–Vali, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Vali,


I am sure she is happy, but it sounds like her life has been rough so far. Moving her to another household would only extend her trauma experience. Please give her time to adjust. She needs to feel safe before she can be affectionate. Get her a feline pheromone collar for her to wear and/or a pheromone plug-in that you can put in her favorite rooms in the house. The scent of pheromones will relax her.

To build trust, don’t pick her up; let her come to you. (You didn’t mention your son’s age, but even letting a three-year-old know not to pick up a cat is an important lesson in respect.) When she comes to you, pet her, but stop if you sense she is getting agitated. She may always have a low threshold for petting (many cats do), but this will help build her tolerance for interaction over time, and you will see a difference.

The good news is, she meows at you. Cats don’t meow at animals. They only meow at people they want to communicate with, so talk to her to reassure her she has found her forever home. Your understanding and patience will build trust with her.

Dear Cathy,


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