Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever found your cat hiding? From the smallest nook in a closet to the most unlikely places of comfort (like, inside the refrigerator–true story!), cats are masters of concealment. Usually, cats hide simply because they’ve found a safe, warm, and comfortable place to snooze away the day. But if you have a cat for whom hiding is not a normal behavior, who suddenly starts hiding and does not want to come out, it could be an indicator that something is wrong.
Is it Normal For a Cat to Hide?
It is absolutely normal for cats to hide–under the bed, in cabinets, in the closet, under blankets, in a bag, on a shelf, and pretty much anywhere else they may deem cozy. Even well-adjusted cats like safe places to relax and these popular places provide many feline creature comforts such as warmth, quiet, safety, and even a good vantage point for quiet contemplation of life…or potential pouncing.
Why Would a Cat Suddenly Start Hiding?
A cat who has never hidden before may start doing so just because she wants to but it could also be a sign that something is amiss. If you have just added a fluffy rug under your bed and she suddenly begins spending time there but is still interacting with you/your household, it’s likely just because she thinks that rug is as nice as you do.
If something in your household has changed–from adding new furniture to new people–your cat may hide until she has had time to get used to the new additions. In some cases, cats may not be open to such change–an example that is somewhat common, but maybe not common sense to us humans, is the installation of something like a ceiling fan in a room. The motion and whirring could cause a cat to hide from the interloper for a while and then decide 1) it is manageable or 2) never to enter that room again.
Other common reasons cats suddenly start hiding is that they are not feeling well, are stressed, or scared. As Myrna Milani, DVM, an author and veterinary scholar in the fields of pathology and anthrozoology, points out to PetMD, “If your cat usually spends its day hidden, that’s generally fine and normal. The problem arises, however, when social cats suddenly start hiding. This behavior is often indicative of stress, fear, a medical issue, or some combination of these.”
Do Cats Hide When They Are Sick?
It is very common for cats to hide when they are sick. While humans tend to want some TLC when we’re sick, cats are the opposite. “Although cats are predators, in nature larger predators will prey upon them. Since sick or old animals make an easy target, any obvious sign of illness will alert other predators that the animal is ill. Therefore, cats have evolved to hide signs of illness and pain,” note the experts at VCA animal hospitals.
This makes it easy to understand why it is hard to tell if a cat is sick. Common indicators that your cat isn’t feeling well include lethargy, loss of appetite, and hiding. If your kitty tucks in somewhere, is sleeping more than usual, not eating, and refuses to come out, you’ll want to get her to the vet to find out what is going on.
Is it Normal For a New Cat to Hide?
It is absolutely normal for a cat to hide when it is being introduced to a new home. Finding a safe space to hide allows a cat to get used to unfamiliar smells, sounds, and sights. Some cats may not hide at all–others may hide for days. If your kitty is the latter, you will just have to wait it out. Some things that may help boost kitty confidence are providing food and water near the hiding spot, making a little box available close by, providing toys, and also spending some time sitting where your new cat (or, old cat in a new home) can see and hear you. As trust develops, so will your cat’s comfort level.
How Long Will a Cat Stay in Hiding?
Hiding is generally a normal–and temporary–thing; more a function of a safe place to sleep (or observe goings on within your home). Cats should regularly come out of hiding to eat, play, use the potty, and spend time with you. If your kitty is hiding pretty much all of the time, and you have ruled out a medical issue, think about things in your home environment that may have changed and could be making her uncomfortable or, even sad–such as the loss of a partner in a bonded pair.
How Do I Get My Cat Out of Hiding?
The first rule of thumb (if you want to keep yours) is not to force it. That is, unless you absolutely have to. If you are concerned that your cat needs medical attention, find a way to gently remove him from his hiding spot. Sometimes this might involve carefully securing him by the scruff of his neck and then calmly moving him to his carrier. Another option is to infuse a towel or blanket with a calming pheromone spray and place it in or near your cat’s hiding spot. If your cat gets on it, you may be able to gently wrap it around him in order to secure him for a vet visit.
If you have a new cat or have just moved into a new home with your cat, allow them some time to acclimate to all of the intangibles about their new space. Once they’ve had some time to adjust, a great way to coax a cat out of hiding is stinky treats or catnip. If you have a food-motivated cat, this can be a simple way to show your kitty the new place is ok, whereas catnip can make him forget about his troubles long enough to realize all is well. Irresistible toys such as flying feather sticks can also work well–a cat’s prey drive is pretty hard to ignore.
Overall, if you are not concerned that your cat may have a medical issue, let your cat make the decision to come out of hiding. Forcing things can damage trust between you whereas respect for the feline independent streak, patience, treats, and lots of love can only strengthen your bond.