How to Make Friends with an Adult Cat

Tips for Inviting a New Cat into Your Home

Ginger domestic cat in sunshine
Image by Chris Winsor / Getty Images

It can be tricky to invite a new adult cat into your home. If you're adopting an older cat, you may not know exactly what kind of treatment that cat has experienced at the hands of its former owners. If you're blending cat-loving households, multiple cats will have to figure out a "pecking order" and decide whether their new housemates are friends or competitors. Fortunately, most adult cats can figure out how to live together—and many, over time, become fast friends.

Tips for Helping Adult Cats to Socialize

Cats' fear and antisocial behavior can be caused by many different factors. To figure out just why your cat is having a tough time, you can apply the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers, to try and figure out the reason behind a particular behavior.

H=Health

Even healthy cats can be shy when they're in a new environment or confronted with new animals who will be sharing their space. When cats are not feeling well, their instinct is to find a quiet, hidden corner and stay away from humans and other animals. If your pet has not been to the vet lately or is displaying unusually antisocial behavior it's a good idea to be sure there isn't an underlying health issue to address.

I=Instinct

It is a normal cat behavior to be cautious of anything new. In fact, a will automatically stay a healthy distance of anyone with whom it has not had a positive experience. Kittens, up to about seven weeks, are usually fairly open to new people and experiences, but after that, it takes time and patience for a cat to learn to accept change.

S=Stress

It's stressful to be placed in a new situation with new people and new relationships. In some cases, a new cat may be the target of aggression on the part of resident cats, making it tough for the newbie to show affection to its human owners. Stress can also affect your cat's appetite, mood, and sleep patterns.

S=Symptom, Signs & Solutions

Some cats (just like humans) are simply born less social than others. Some kitties are perfectly satisfied being near to people but prefer not to be touched, picked up, or handled. That means that, no matter what you do, you may wind up with a cat that will never sit on your lap. There are, however, some steps you can take to invite your cat to spend time near or even next to you.

  • If your cat is new to your household, start interacting slowly. If there are other cats in the house, introduce them gradually, providing both new and older pets with options for coming closer or getting away easily.
  • If your cat runs when you move (usually a sign of anxiety), find a place to be stationary and invite it to come to you.
  • Use the treats/foods that it likes and make it worth its while to be near. Start by tossing tidbits some distance away so it knows they come from you but it doesn't have to come too close. Over time, something this simple can entice it to come closer and be more willing to interact.