I have a new kitten (Slalom) I rescued from my work (warehouse).

We have an earlier rescue cat (Sochi) from work also. The method we used to socialize Sochi was to keep her in our room for a day while introducing her to our other cat and dogs. We then put her inside a large crate in the living room for a couple days to socialize with others while separated from them so she would feel safe. At first Sochi hissed, but she now roams around the house and is affectionate and sociable.

But our new rescue kitten (Slalom) got out of the crate and hides in the basement. He's leaves the basement when no people are around. Our other cats go to the basement with him. He has all needed essentials, treats and toys. I can approach him to give him treats now, but he won't allow me to touch him. He has never hissed. But he has been hiding in the basement for 2 months now. What can I do to get Slalom to trust me and other humans and become more socialized?


2 Answers 2


It's not rare for rescues to distrust people. Many of them have been abused, and cats have good memory. Usually you just have to give them time and a lot of TLC (tender loving care) without imposing on them too much. Seems like your kitten is slowly warming up to you if he lets you give him treats.

A few suggestions though.

Are all of his essentials in the basement or around the house? What's his relationship with the other pets?

When you're trying to touch him, be calm (cats read our state easily), move slowly and steadily, and keep your hand(s) at his eye level or lower (keeping hands above eye level can be seen as a threat, especially by a skittish kitten), don't loom over him (that makes you look huge and scary). Same goes for other people.

Try the slow blink to let him know you trust him and to encourage him to trust you more. Same for other people.

If he responds well to treats, challenge him with it softly. Sit a foot away and let him come to you for a treat, then a little farther, then farther still... Let him warm up to the idea that if he comes to you, good things happen.

Let other people bring him treats, leave them as close to him as he'll let them without bolting, then leave. After a bit of time, leave the treats close to him, retreat a couple steps, and wait a bit. With time he should be comfortable enough to get out and take the treat when the people are still there. Then retreat less, then stay there when you put the treat down, then try touching him.

Play with him slowly leading him out of the basement. Let him chase the toy as far as he's comfortable going. When he doesn't want to go any farther, don't push him.

Let other people play with him.

It can be a long process. You were lucky with your first rescue, but it doesn't always work as smoothly. Just be patient and don't give up.

  • One technique I used successfully to get a cat used to me (in addition to your wonderful instructions) is to set up a sleeping bag in the room the cat stays in (in the OPs case, the basement) and use it to sleep for a few days. If you are in the cat's presence for many hours without the cat being frightened it really helps them figure out you are not a bear that is going to eat them the next time you are hungry. And other than the discomfort of using a sleeping bag, this time is free socialization time; it's not like you can do other productive things while sleeping. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 6:53
  • Also, the sleeping bag (after you sleep in it) or any other clothing you have worn and left your smell on gets the cat used to your scent. If you cover the cat's preferred sleep location with your used sweaty clothing, the cat will become more used to you even when you are not around. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 7:11

Kaworu's answer is excellent, so I'll just add a few suggestions.

  • Put a cardboard box or something else he can hide in near your sofa (or wherever you relax). This can help him get more comfortable with being near you. If he won't even come out of the basement when people are around, try putting the box/hiding place at the entrance to the basement. Gradually move it closer to your sofa.
  • When he does make an appearance, don't make a big fuss. You can greet him, but then go back to whatever you were doing.
  • Try lying on the floor and coaxing him to come to you (perhaps with treats). You don't have to do this a lot, but it will help in the beginning.
  • When he does come near you, don't reach out and pet him without warning. Instead, extend your hand as a request to pet him. If he walks away, that's a "no", so respect that. If he stays close, that's "yes". Reach out slowly and pet him. Early on, he may flinch even if he stays put. I'd treat that as a "yes", but approach extra gently.
  • When you pet him, try not to bring your hand down from above. Put your hand down at his level, and then move it toward him. Imagine if you had a friend that was 10 times your height. Even if you trusted this friend completely, you'd flinch if he brought his hand quickly down toward you!
  • You may want to try a product like Feliway or Kalm aid.
  • Don't "pat". Stroke him, scratch the chin and around the ears, and if he lets you, rub his tummy.
  • If he allows you to pick him up, do so as gently as if he were the most fragile, precious thing in the world. Cats really appreciate exaggerated gentleness.

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