You go to pet your cat, but they’re not in their usual spot on the cat tree. You also can’t find them on the bed or on that chair they like in the kitchen. When you finally discover your kitty, they are peering at you from behind the couch. Why is your cat hiding?
While hiding is in a cat’s nature, if your cat has never done something like this before, there are a few reasons for this drastic behavior change. It might be a sudden change, like a new pet in the house or a loud guest. Or it might be a growing problem, like pain from an injury or mounting anxiety.
The important thing to do is identify why your cat is hiding. From there, you can figure out how to comfort them and eventually get them out. Read on to learn the usual reasons cats end up creeping under the bed and the best way to get them to come back out.
Is It Normal for Cats to Hide?
Every cat is an individual, even if you own a purebred kitty. Some cats love sitting atop cat trees, watching their servants — erm, humans — go about their daily routine below. Some cats prefer snuggling next to you on the couch. And others prefer creeping behind the couch, curled up securely against the wall.
That means hiding might be normal for some cats and abnormal for others. A timid cat might feel at home sleeping underneath your bed, especially if guests come over. But if your cat is usually more confident and enjoys sprawling out on the rug in the center of the living room, it’s probably not normal if they suddenly choose to hide in a small crevasse in the laundry room for most of the day.
But sometimes, even the most confident of kitties will rush to hide inside a box. This could be due to situational things, like a new dog in the home or fireworks. Or it can be something internal, like pain from a disease or separation anxiety.
Normal Vs Excessive Cat Hiding
Okay, so your cat heard your rowdy guests and bolted into the bedroom to hide. Is this normal? Again, study your cat’s usual behavior. If your cat is usually friendly with guests — even social — there might be a problem if your cat suddenly sneaks into the bedroom when you have friends over.
But even so, something might have triggered them this time. Maybe one of the guests was getting too loud. Or maybe it was a new person they didn’t trust. Maybe they even smelled like a dog. Just give your cat some time if they choose to distance themselves from a situation.
It becomes excessive hiding if your cat refuses to leave. Once the guests are gone, the fireworks are over, or the dog is put in its crate, your cat should slowly decide to creep out of its hiding spot and check out the situation. But if your cat opts to stay hidden for long periods each day, there might be something concerning going on. It’s also a sign of excessive hiding if your cat starts growling or hissing if anyone approaches them while they are trying to hide.
If you sense that your cat is in distress or pain, their hiding may be excessive, and it’s time to call the vet to make sure nothing serious is going on with your kitty and help them get the care they need.
Why Is My Cat Hiding?
Cats may be cautious creatures, but most cats don’t act fearful or scared for no reason. Hiding is often a cat’s natural response to various things, including fear, stress, pain, or even pregnancy. If you want to make sure your hiding cat is okay, the first step is to figure out what caused them to sneak off in the first place.
In the wild, cats are predators and prey. It’s in their nature to flee when they feel threatened, being more defensive than aggressive in response to scary situations. When your cat is afraid, their first instinct is to hide. A scared cat will not only hide but freeze in place, avoid the litterbox, and hiss, growl, and puff their tail.
Cats become scared when they:
- Hear a sudden loud noise or see a sudden quick movement
- Are put into a new environment
- Come into contact with a new person or animal
- Are around a loud or rowdy person, including children
- Are in a scary situation, like a vet visit, long car ride, or trip
Stress or Anxiety
Similar to fear, cats will often respond to stress or anxiety by hiding. Cats are sensitive, meaning new environments or situations or a change in routine can upset them. If it’s an ongoing situation, like a new apartment or roommate, it can build up into stress, which comes out in various symptoms:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Bad coat condition
- Spraying furniture and urinating outside the litter box
- Excessive meowing
- Withdrawal from the family and other pets
- Pacing and yowling
Cats are tough animals that don’t often want to show their weakness. If they are sick or struggling, a cat would rather hide than be seen in a vulnerable state. That’s because sick animals are targets in the wild. As loners, wild cats have nobody to protect them when they are weakened and sick — it’s better to find a place to hide from potential predators.
Hiding is the number one symptom to look for when you suspect that your cat is sick. If you notice accompanying changes in behavior or appearance (like neglected grooming or purring), take your cat to the vet immediately. Cats will also hide when their sickness is very serious, or they are dying.
Similar to sickness, a cat in pain will instinctively hide due to vulnerability. Having an injury or appearing weak will make your cat feel like a target, much like they would in the wild. Hiding makes them feel safe and comforted when they are experiencing discomfort.
It’s very common for cats to become reclusive during the final week of their pregnancy. They will seek out secluded spots in the house where they feel they can give birth safely and without drawing attention to themselves.
It’s in Their Instincts!
A hiding cat isn’t always a cause for concern. In fact, many hiding cats have NOTHING wrong with them, even if they are hiding all the time. Hiding is an instinctual cat behavior, making them feel comfortable and safe.
This is why boxes are so popular with cats — even wild cats! Cats naturally enjoy being in places where they feel comfortable and secure. Boxes have multiple sides, meaning they can feel hidden from multiple angles. It’s quite important to provide at least one cardboard box for your cat to use if you want them to feel less stressed and more confident.
Most of the time, when your cat is hiding, it’s nothing you have to figure out. Just keep an eye on them and make sure there are no other signs or symptoms of fear, stress, pain, or sickness. If they appear perfectly fine, let your cat hide to their heart’s content.
How to Approach a Cat In Hiding
Every cat is different (some will come out the moment you call for them while others will growl when approached while hiding). But there are some general rules to follow when approaching a hiding cat who might be scared or sick.
What Not to Do
- Don’t be loud, like yelling out for them or stomping around the room. This will only make them even more afraid to leave.
- Avoid fast movements, like grabbing at them or suddenly ducking down to stare at them.
- Please don’t move the furniture they are hiding behind, like the couch or bed. This will most likely terrify them and cause them to race to another hiding spot elsewhere.
- Don’t spray them with water or punish them.
- Don’t pull on them or drag them out unless it’s a very clear emergency.
- Never throw things at your cat or poke at them.
What to Do
It’s very important to be patient and calm when approaching a fearful or stressed hiding cat. Try sitting down near the area where your cat is hiding and quietly say their name. You can even talk a bit to get them used to hearing your voice nearby.
If your cat doesn’t seem receptive to your presence, leave to give them space before trying again. But if they don’t seem to mind you being nearby, slowly move closer to where they are hiding. Make sure to stay low to the ground and continue talking in a soothing voice.
Once you get close enough to reach them, offer them something that smells like you. This can be glasses or a sock. If you see them start to bristle up or hear them growling, move the item away and go back to just sitting nearby their hiding spot until they have calmed down. If they seem curious or content with the item, offer them your hand instead, making sure it’s low and within smelling distance.
Your cat will most likely sniff you and even rub against you. If they don’t seem anxious from this step, try petting them. Scratch their neck or gently pet their head. Once your cat realizes you are trustworthy, they will either come out on their own or appear calmer. If they don’t leave their hiding spot, slowly walk away after a bit and give them space. Keep repeating these steps until they allow you to gently pull them out.
How to Get a Cat Out from Hiding
If the above advice doesn’t get more timid or afraid cats to come out of their hiding spot, there are a few tricks you can try that might convince your kitty to finally come out.
Try CBD for Cats
CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that calms anxious cats by interacting with the receptors in their endocannabinoid system (ECS). It’s often used to help soothe cats that are feeling a bit overwhelmed, aggressive, or scared. Providing your cat with a toy coated in CBD catnip spray or offering them a few CBD treats might ease how tense they feel.
Try Wet Food or Snacks
If your cat is hiding, try this trick. There’s a chance they will rush out from under the couch to get some wet food. If not, try opening the food closer to where they are hiding. Place the wet food somewhere in the room, possibly just out of their reach. Your cat might not be able to resist.
Provide Them with Other Safe Places
Your cat might be hiding in undesirable spots in the home (like the dryer or in a dirty basement) because there are not enough areas for them to feel safe elsewhere in the home. Try these ideas if you want your cat to hide somewhere else:
- Cardboard boxes
- Cat trees
- Cat beds
- Warm blankets
When Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?
If you notice other signs of pain, illness, or anxiety — listed above — you will want to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Cats hide when they are injured or experiencing intense pain, meaning your cat may have something seriously wrong with them. Look for:
- Lethargic behavior
- Tail flicking, growling, hissing, swatting
- Lack of appetite
- Refusal to use the litter box
- Looking dirty and not cleaning properly
Final Thoughts – Cat Hiding
Hiding is normal behavior for a cat. It’s in their instincts to hide, gives them comfort, and makes them feel safe. If your cat normally hides, don’t be too worried. This is something they might even enjoy doing, so give them the time to themselves.
But a cat may be hiding something serious when you find them squished under the couch. Sometimes cats hide when they are in pain or when they are sick. Look for other signs, like not using the litter box or refusing to eat. If you are concerned that your cat is in distress, contact a vet immediately.
If you don’t think something is wrong, allow your cat to hide. They will come out to cuddle and play eventually!