The Turkish Van Site
Adopting an older cat: What to expect
Adopting a retired show cat or an older Turkish Van can be very rewarding. These cats have a lifetime of love to give their new owners. If you are considering adopting a young adult versus a kitten, you need to be prepared to accept that it may take a bit of time for the cat to adapt to its new surroundings. If you are not willing to do this, we recommend that you consider getting a kitten instead. There have been a lot of successful placements of older cats and a few that were not. Through these experiences we have learned a lot and can offer a few recommendations on how to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Dos and Don'ts:
1. Expect that it may take some time for your new cat to become accustomed to its new home. How Long? There is no single answer to this question. Be prepared to allow 2 -3 months, maximum, for adjustment. Any longer than this, and it is likely that the placement will not be successful. The shortest adjustment period was about 6 hours :-) and the longest about 3 months. In the latter, we assisted with the placement of two middle aged Turkish Vans who had been born and spent their entire lives in one home. The need to place them was very traumatic for them as well as their old and new owners. These two guys hid for quite some time, coming out only at night when they felt it was safe to eat and explore. Kudos go to their new owner who did not rush them and was ready to accept their affection when they decided it was time to give it. It was as if one day, these two guys decided that it was OK and both came out and became fully socialized and loved members of the family.
In another example, Jethro went to his new home and was invisible for about 6 weeks. His new owners knew he was coming out at night and eating and exploring. They were patient and when Jethro decided it was time, out he came and hasn't hid since. He is very happy and much loved.
2. Do not introduce your new cat to your dog and other pets as soon as you get them home. This can be disasterous. A year and a half old very friendly female was adopted by a couple with a docile (but large) Great Dane. Despite lots of advice on how to make the introductions successful after the cat became used to its new home and owners, upon arriving home the new owners pulled the cat out of the carrier and stuck her in the face of their Great Dane (just to say hello....). The cat was petrified, having never seen a dog before, and screamed, scratched and tried to get away. The new owners were unhappy because they felt that she was a mean cat (any friendly cat would have enjoyed meeting their dog) and the cat was retrieved by the breeder right away. She was very happy to get home :-)
3. Let your new cat have the opportunity to explore and get accustomed to their new environment without being bothered. Vans are friendly cats by nature if they are comfortable and feel safe and secure. If they want to hide under the couch-let them. Don't insist on dragging them out. Have the former owner provide you with a toy or something that is theirs to take with you. Put that in their favorite hiding place (under the couch, bed, etc.) so they can have something familiar. They will come out when they are ready.
4. Let your new cat bond with you first if you have other animals. While you have your kitty in its 10 day isolation period (required if you have other pets), this is a perfect time for the cat to get accustomed to you. This can be done in a bathroom or your bedroom. This will become their safe zone.
5. Let them come to you. Do not go chasing after your new cat. They may interpret this as a threatening activity and it can extend the adjustment period needlessly. Just be patient. Do not try to force them to be held and petted. Again, Turkish Vans are very sociable. They will come to you when they are ready. And when they are ready, you better be too, because they will want to make up for lost time.
6. Make sure they are eating. Keep a high quality dry food out. Check to make sure that they are eating and using the facilities. A treat now and again is OK. The sound of a can of turkey and giblets opening is sometimes enough to bring them out of hiding. If not, wait until they do.
Is there a common theme here? Yes, it is patience.
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