When visiting Cat Town, it’s not uncommon to hear a volunteer use the term “under-socialized” when referring to one of our adoptable cats. These cats, due to their challenging or fearful behavior in a shelter, are typically considered “unadoptable” by most rescue organizations. Part of the magic of Cat Town is that we believe in the potential of every cat and frequently get these cats out of cages and into a safe environment, where they can grow comfortable and confident enough to show their true personalities — all while waiting to find a good home.
There are a lot of questions anyone looking to adopt an animal needs to ask themselves before bringing a new friend home. Do I have the space for a pet in my home? Do I have enough free time to dedicate to spending time with a pet? Am I financially prepared to care for a pet in case of an emergency? For someone thinking about adopting an under-socialized cat, there are a few extra considerations to make. It’s important to remember a cat who is under-socialized is not a feral cat, but has likely had little exposure to humans and/or their interactions with humans have not been positive.
Below are four things to consider when adopting an under-socialized cat. Keep in mind that every animal is different, so plan to have an in-depth conversation with an adoption counselor about the specific cat you’re interested in to get insider information!
They may need Extra time to Adjust
It may take a while for your new cat to feel at home with both you and your living space. It could take days, weeks, or even months for them to be fully comfortable with you. Be prepared to stay patient, and start slowly. We recommend adopters set up a small space such as a bathroom, with food, water, a litter box, a bed, and plenty of toys available. Visit the cat several times a day, every day, and make each interaction positive. This could mean offering treats or simply sitting nearby while they get used to you. As the cat becomes more comfortable, you can start gradually letting them explore more of your house (with supervision), building up to giving them total access.
You may need to coach Them
There are no magic words you can say that will automatically build your new cat’s confidence, so you’ll want to put the time in to help them progress. Try a variety of things to see what works for them and what doesn’t — some cats love to play, while others are very food motivated. This also applies to making your home a comfortable and enjoyable place for the cat; you may have to experiment with several different toys or foods to learn what they like.
Think about adopting Two cats
Cats constantly observe and learn from one another, which is why we often recommend an under-socialized cat go home with another cat, or require the adopters have a resident cat. Being around a more confident cat can help bring a shy cat out of their shell and teach them valuable life skills more quickly. There are many reasons why you might want to consider adopting a second cat, or a pair of cats. Read our blog post “4 Reasons to Adopt a Bonded Pair” to learn more!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Animals are complicated! Should you become frustrated by slow progress with your new cat, remember you aren’t alone — Cat Town has a team of volunteer case managers ready and willing to help you out! They can work with you to determine the best course of action and give you a variety of options for tactics to try to help you and your new cat become a successful match. At Cat Town, we keep the equation “Love + Time = Magic” close to our hearts. Don’t let fear get in your way of opening your heart to an under-socialized cat.
They may take a little extra patience and effort, but that often makes their small breakthroughs that much sweeter. Below are just two examples out of the thousands of Cat Town adopters who have found that to be true:
“I am so thankful for everyone who helped Clayton turn his life around. He continues to make progress now that he has found his forever home. … He is a daily reminder that with just a little effort a life can be changed, whether it be my own, someone else’s or the life of a formerly feral cat. With a little love and understanding, we can grow and thrive into our true selves.” — Candice, adopter of Clayton
“From day one, Briggs brought us some challenges, but then, so much more joy. Every day, small but exciting steps marked his growing confidence and gave us cause to celebrate. … We are so grateful we got to be Briggs’ second chance, and that he got to be ours. He healed our hearts and proved the formula ‘Love + Time = Magic’ is absolutely true.” — Loraine, adopter of Briggs
Talk to us today about adopting your own under-socialized cat!