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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I just adopted a 7-month-old tuxedo cat (obviously named Tux) two days ago. The first two days were great; we bonded by playing and cuddling. Today I had to work and he was home alone for six hours. When I came home, he was hiding–for the first time in two days–and wouldn’t come when I called him. Is he feeling resentful toward me because I left him alone for the first time? I made sure I left his toys out, he had fresh food and water, and cleaned his litter box before I left. Tux is finally starting to come around, but I’ve already been home for three hours, and he is just now coming out of hiding. Is there something I can do to make it up to him, or show him that I still care? I don’t want to scare him by cornering him.

~Julia

Siouxsie: Julia, we can comfort you about one thing. We cats don’t feel resentment–even though some people think we do–so we’re sure Tux doesn’t resent you. Cats get angry or scared, but we don’t stew over it and get resentful the way humans do.

Thomas: The behavior you’re describing sounds a lot more like fear than anger or resentment. A scared cat hides. An angry cat doesn’t hide and will actually glare at you.

Dahlia: So we think it’s more likely that Tux got scared of something while you were away.

Siouxsie: Maybe there was a sudden loud noise or another cat appeared at your window and hissed at him.

Thomas: Being alone doesn’t usually cause hiding-under-the-bed fear, unless a cat is very shy and insecure to begin with.

Dahlia: You did everything right while you were getting ready to leave. You left him toys so he could entertain himself. You left him food and water so he knew he wouldn’t be hungry. You left his litterbox clean. Those are all things any cat caretaker should do before they leave, whether it’s for an hour or a day.

Siouxsie: You’re also doing the right thing by leaving him to come out when he feels ready. He knows you care because you’re not trying to force him out of hiding.

Thomas: It’s going to take him a little while to recover from whatever frightened him. The best thing you can do is quietly tell him he’s okay, pet him when he asks for affection, and let him know that part of your routine is leaving the house for part of the day. Promise him that you will come back and give him some love before you go out the door.

Dahlia: When you return at the end of the day, play with Tux for a little while. A “cat fishing” toy is great for drawing a scaredy-cat out from hiding because it will activate his hunting instinct and curiosity. If you want to make your own cat fishing toy rather than buying one, we’ve found some instructions here.

Siouxsie: Remember to put the cat fishing toy away when you’re done playing with it. You want this game to be a special, fun thing for Tux.

Thomas: Also, by putting the fishing toy away when you’re not home, you’ll make sure that there’s no way Tux could get accidentally injured by chewing off buttons or ribbons, or getting caught in the string.

Dahlia: You can wind up the game by giving Tux a special treat. There are lots of good treats on the market, but we especially love Feline Greenies.

Siouxsie: You can get Greenies at most pet stores.

Thomas: If you do give treats to Tux, make sure you give him maybe one a day. If he eats too many treats, he may become overweight.

Dahlia: Tux will recover from his fear with some help and play from you, and he will get used to your work schedule.

Siouxsie: You’re doing fine as a kitty caretaker, so please try not to feel guilty about Tux’s fear.

Thomas: Cats also hide when they don’t feel well, so if little Tux is still hiding and not eating or drinking, we’d definitely recommend a vet check.

Dahlia: Good luck, Julia. Please let us know how things turn out.

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