5 Ways To Earn Your Rescue Cat’s Trust

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on November 14, 2017

When you bring your rescue cat home for the first time, gaining their trust is your first challenge as a new pet owner. Many rescues suffer from anxiety and stress, and overcoming those trust issues is essential if you want your cat to feel happy and comfortable by your side. From the moment you sign the adoption papers, everything you do is either going to help or hurt your relationship. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your rescue cat learns to trust you.

#1 – Stay Still

Cats are already known for getting spooked easily, and adding past neglect, abandonment, or even abuse to their background doesn’t help. When you first bring them home, let them explore their new digs on their own terms. Basically, your job is to ignore them as they take their time sniffing and exploring. When they work up the courage to get to know you, be as nonthreatening as possible. You can sit, stand, or lay down, but the key is to not move. Let them walk around and sniff your toes, and when you feel it’s safe to move, do it slowly.

#2 – Create a Safe Space

Cats like small, enclosed places because it makes them feel safe. Your cat will feel more comfortable in your vicinity if they have a place that’s all their own. Set up a crate, box, or cat bed somewhere quiet. Put it near their litter box so they’re comforted by the familiar smell. Your rescue cat might choose to spend most of her time in this safe space for the first few days, but don’t break her trust by dragging her out. She’ll join the party when she’s ready.

#3 – Use Your Scent

Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell. You can use this to your advantage by planting your scent around their favorite things. Use one of your shirts or a blanket that smells like you to line their crate or cat bed. Strategically place your sneakers near their food dish and mix a sock into their pile of toys. They’ll smell you even when you’re not around, and they’ll start relating your scent to their favorite things.

#4 – Appeal to Their Appetite

Giving food is a universal sign of goodwill. Once your cat realizes their food often comes from your hand, they’ll be a lot more interested in making friends. Try to set up a feeding routine your cat can rely on. As the days pass and you stick to your routine, they’ll start to trust you. The more days go by where you’re the bringer of tasty treats, the better your relationship will get.

#5 – Mind Your Manners

Above all, you need to treat your rescue cat with respect. Even if they’re doing something you’re not exactly happy about, resist the urge to force them into good behavior. Backing a timid cat into a corner will only get you hissed at and scratched. Yelling or swatting at them for scratching the door post will only teach them you can’t be trusted. Instead, stay calm and use positive reinforcement to get your message across.

Adopting a rescue cat will save their life, but you can do more than that. You don’t only want them to live, you want them to be healthy, happy, and comfortable in their home. Giving your cat the best life possible will take time and commitment, especially if they’re showing signs of not trusting you. Take it slow and be patient. You’ll have to work together to build the purrfect relationship.