What’s the best way to deal with a scared cat? She belonged to a neighbor and has always been afraid of strangers, but they were going to give her up to the shelter. I saved her, but now she hides in my basement. She growls at me and will not come upstairs. Help!
Cats that have severe fears of human strangers can take some time to warm up. The most important thing is that you keep yourself from getting bitten or scratched while the two of you are getting to know each other.
If the cat is staying in the basement, you might want to make sure that you deliver small meals to her several times daily to get her used to you and your voice being associated with food. Keep a litter pan there for her, and clean it daily. A large bowl of water should also be available at all times. It may take months for her to trust you enough to approach you. Try not to pick her up or even touch her until you are sure she is comfortable with it.
For health reasons, get a list of vaccinations or worming treatments that have been done in the past and have your veterinarian review the medical history. There may be things that need to brought up to date to make your cat a safe and healthy member of your family. Live traps are sometimes necessary to confine cats that are not safe to handle. If the cat has not been vaccinated for rabies, it should be strictly confined with no physical exposure to anyone for 10 days.
With some time and attention, your new cat may very well warm up to you, but expect it to take some time.