How To Bond With Your New Senior Cat

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
Many things get better with age – including your cat! If you’re thinking of adopting an older kitty, we’ve got a few tips that will help you bond.

With so many sweet senior kitties looking for homes in shelters, there are many opportunities to bring an adult cat into your life. The great thing about these cats is that you know what you’re getting because their personalities are already developed. With a senior cat, what you see is what you get.

But there’s still a bonding process that’s necessary when you first bring a senior kitty home. After all, an older cat has already been through a lot, had established some sort of routine that is now being disrupted, and now needs some time to readjust to all of the changes in her life. Check out the tips below on how you can bond with an adopted senior cat to make the process easier for both of you.

Related: 7 Tips For Choosing The Best Veterinarian For Your Cat

Give the Cat Some Time and Space

Just as you’d give a young adult cat or kitten some space, you need to give a senior cat some distance as well. Let her come to you when she’s ready, rather than forcing her to be petted, held, picked up, etc.

If you make an effort to interact with your cat but she isn’t in the mood, it’s best to just give her the time she needs to adjust to her new environment and the new people around her. Eventually, she’ll come around, especially if you give her the space she needs and if you’re patient, gentle, and understanding.

Provide a Hiding Place and Her Own Room

Cats who are adopted need to adjust to their new homes gradually, and many end up hiding because they’re so afraid of the new sights and scents in the unfamiliar environment.

Related: The Health Benefits Of Cats

One way to reduce this anxiety is by providing your cat with a hiding place to call her own, such as a cardboard box with a pet bed inside. Boxes are secure spaces in which cats can feel comfortable and safe, and your kitty’s scent will eventually cover the inside of the box so she can have a claim to some territory in your house.

You can keep this box in a small room that your cat can stay in while she adjusts. Make sure the room has food and water bowls on one end and a litter box on the other end, as well as a scratching post and other objects that can make her feel at home. Once she’s comfortable approaching you in the small room and she appears at ease and ready to explore, you can let her venture out into the rest of the house.

Side note: If you’re bringing home a senior kitty that will need to meet your resident cat(s), have a strategy in place for introducing them to one another gradually. Keeping your new cat in a room to separate her from your other pets can be helpful in this regard as well. Click here for some tips on how to introduce a new cat to your feline family.

Develop Trust

Once your cat learns to trust you, she’ll bond more easily with you. Start by proving that you care about her by giving her a warm bed to lie in, a nice scratching post to use and call her own, and plenty of yummy, nutritious food and treats.

Consider not leaving food out all the time for her to munch on. By providing regular meals, you become the cat’s provider, which helps reinforce trust and bonding, while also preventing your cat from overeating and gaining too much weight.

Also, pet your cat gently, talk to her in a soft and reassuring voice, and see if she wants to play with toys. All of these small steps will add up and prove to the cat that she’s in a safe new home with people that really do love her.

Brush Your Cat Often

A lot of cats thoroughly enjoy having their fur brushed, so spending some time each day grooming your new furry companion can be a great way to let her know that she can feel safe around you. Plus, because a senior kitty might have some trouble grooming herself like she used to, brushing her can help keep her coat smooth and soft.

There are many different types of brushes designed for cats, from bristle brushes to deshedding combs. You can even find grooming gloves that let you brush your cat while petting her, so those might be a good choice when you’re trying to get your senior pet to feel at ease when you’re touching her.

Use Toys to Encourage Play

As mentioned above, one way to develop trust is by using toys to entice your senior kitty to play. Remember, just because your new cat is older doesn’t mean she won’t be interested in playing. It might, however, mean that she will only want to play for a few minutes, and she might not be able to jump and run like a younger kitty would.

Like brushes, there are various toys you can buy for a senior kitty to see which types she likes best. She might not be willing to play right away, but showing her that she’s in a safe place where she can have fun may be helpful when you’re trying to get her to come out of her shell.

Make It Easy for Your Cat to Get Around the House

Senior kitties might have trouble getting around the house, so creating an environment where she won’t have any difficulties is important. And, again, every step you take to help your pet feel comfortable and safe is a step towards creating a strong bond.

Consider things like the placement of your cat’s food and water bowls. If she has trouble eating and drinking from bowls that are on the floor, try using elevated bowls to see if those are preferred.

When it comes to the litter box, making sure it’s easy for your senior cat to get into and out of it is also a smart step, as is setting up more than one box so she won’t need to go far when she needs to use it.

Also, if your senior kitty has trouble jumping onto the sofa or bed, adding pet steps or ramps might help her get to the perfect spot where she can be warm and cozy.

Spend Time Snuggling with Your Kitty

Speaking of cozy, your senior cat is sure to enjoy snuggling with you, so in addition to giving her a pet bed to call her own, let her cuddle with you on the couch and in your bed. Being near you, purring contentedly, she’ll feel at home and loved.

Be Patient

Most of all, be patient and don’t restrict yourself and your pet to a limited time to bond with one another. Every cat is an individual with a unique personality, as well as a unique past. A kitty that was neglected and/or abused in the past, for example, may require a lot more time to bond with you after establishing a level of trust again. Work at your cat’s pace and you’ll be rewarded in the end with a new best friend.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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