Cats are interesting pets with a lot of strange quirks and misunderstood behaviors. Did you know that cats show their tummy as a sign that they trust you? And that staring at your cat for too long can make them feel threatened? And did you know that a cat hiding is normal feline behavior?
When your cat suddenly bolts away and hides inside a box or behind the couch, it can confuse some cat owners. Are they scared? Are they mad? Sometimes cats hide to be comforted. But there are also many concerns to address, like avoiding your cat being squished behind the bed. Find out why your cat may be hiding and how to get your cat to stop hiding.
Is It Normal for Cats to Hide?
When you wake up to find that your cat is missing only to discover them squished behind the couch or hiding inside a pile of laundry, it’s hard not to wonder if this is normal behavior. Are they scared? Are they sick? But hiding is very normal for cats!
The cat’s wild cat ancestors (the Southwest Asian Wildcat specifically) had an instinct to hide from predators. For cats, it’s natural to squeeze into small spaces to feel safe and secure. Hiding may be in response to a loud noise or a new guest. Or it may just be a spot your cat prefers to feel comforted and relaxed even when nothing particularly triggered them to be there.
For example, my cat loves to hang out in boxes. He loves the material but also subconsciously feels safe thanks to the box’s multiple sides. A wildcat would pick a spot like that so no predator can sneak up on them from the sides or behind.
Normal Vs Excessive Cat Hiding
Even though hiding is normal behavior for a cat, excessive hiding can be a cause for concern. It could be a sign that your cat is stressed, sick, or worse. But what is excessive hiding?
Hiding is excessive when your cat can no longer maintain their daily activities. This includes eating, drinking, and using the litterbox. If your cat refuses to come out to eat or urinate, the hiding is now a concern. If your cat has been hiding for a day or more, contact your veterinarian immediately.
You should also pay close attention to your cat’s behavior in general. Suppose your cat is usually pretty happy being on the couch with you or watching birds outside the window. In that case, it’s probably a major sign that something is wrong if you find your cat suddenly hiding under the bed for the majority of the day.
Why Is My Cat Hiding?
Hiding isn’t always a cause for concern. But it’s important to know why your cat may be hiding so you can better understand if their hiding is pure instinct or due to stress or illness.
Here are the most common reasons your cat may be hiding behind the toilet or under your dresser.
When cats are afraid, it can be comforting to be in a small, secure space. This makes them out of reach of predators and also allows them to more easily watch their surroundings. But what is your cat afraid of?
Cats will often be afraid of sudden, loud noises. This can be a loud car racing by your house, thunder, fireworks, or even someone laughing. Cats may also be afraid of strangers or dogs in the home. They might also be hiding from a child who handles them a bit too roughly. Some will also hide when they are in trouble, like after being yelled at for sneaking around on the counter.
You’ll be able to tell your cat is afraid if they have some of the following signs:
- Large, wide eyes with big pupils
- Flattened ears
- Hissing and swatting when approached
- Heavy breathing
- Puffed up fur
- Arched back
- Low grumbling
- Licking their lips
Stress or Anxiety
Similar to fear, cats can comfort themselves by hiding if they are stressed or anxious. This is usually in response to changes in the home.
Cats are creatures of routine. You’ll notice they enjoy eating and playing simultaneously every day and doing repetitive routines throughout the morning and night. When this is disrupted, cats can become stressed due to the unknowns.
Some of the most common reasons cats become stressed are:
- Redecorating and changing room layouts
- A new person in the home, either visiting or moving in
- A new pet, whether it’s a dog or cat
- Being brought to the vet or taken out of the home for travel etc.
- Being left alone while you travel or leave for long periods
You will be able to tell if your hiding cat is stressed if they are peeing outside the litterbox, vomiting, losing a lot of fur, or grooming excessively. If there’s been a big change in their routine or territory, that’s another clear sign that your cat is stressed.
When cats become sick or ill, they instinctively realize they are weaker and more prone to getting picked off by predators. It’s natural for a sick cat to want to stay safe inside a box or behind a couch. The small space can also comfort them when they are otherwise feeling crappy. If your cat seems unwell or has been hiding for multiple days in a row, you should contact a veterinarian.
Similar to being sick, cats understand that they are weaker when they are in pain. For this same reason, cats are notorious for hiding pain in general. Whether it’s joint discomfort or a serious illness, you’ll notice that cats often act as if they are completely fine. Sometimes, hiding is the only sign that your cat needs help.
A cat in pain will sometimes show some signs they are in distress, including dilated eyes, heavy breathing, excessive grooming, and a focus on the part of their body that’s causing them discomfort. You may notice them biting and licking at a specific spot.
Pregnant cats will start showing “nesting behavior” two weeks before kittens are born. Mothers will look for spots they deem safe and quiet to have their litter. This is often under the bed, in a comfy drawer, or in other spots that are warm and soft.
A hiding pregnant cat is very normal, but you should contact your veterinarian anyway with any thoughts or concerns. You want to make sure your cat isn’t in pain or experiencing any other type of distress.
Pests or Parasites
Fleas, worms, and other pests can cause great discomfort for your cat. Some are very irritating, while others are downright painful. From itchy skin to serious conditions, parasites are no fun for cats.
If you suspect that your cat has pests or parasites, try looking for some signs. If your cat is constantly itching, check the rest of the home for fleas. They are often not only living on your cat. If the licking and chewing are focused on a single spot, there could be a parasite beneath the skin. Also, look for parasites in your cat’s stool, which should be solid and free from blood.
It’s What They Were Born to Do!
It’s a cat’s natural instinct to hide and part of their DNA. If your cat seems relaxed while lounging in a box or is rolling around under the bed, there may be no real trigger that caused your cat to hide. They might just be looking to relax.
How to Approach a Cat In Hiding
If your cat has been hiding for a concerning amount of time, you’ll need to approach them to check on them and take them to the vet. But if you know anything about cats, you know they can be a little particular with how you approach them.
What Not to Do
If your cat has been hiding for a day or more, they are probably in distress. This could be pain, illness, fear, or stress.
- Don’t wear shoes. This will make your footsteps louder and heavier.
- Don’t yell or speak loudly. This will sound threatening to your cat.
- Don’t lift the furniture your cat is under. This will cause them to panic and run.
- Don’t grab at them or pull them out. This could stress out your cat and even harm them.
What to Do
When your cat is in distress, it’s best not to add more panic and stress to the situation.
- Kneel down. Let them see your face.
- Blink slowly. This will make your expression friendlier to your cat since blinking is a sign of respect.
- Let your cat smell your hand first. Reach out and let them smell your hand so they can warm up to your presence.
- Sit down next to their hiding spot for a while. Make it calm with no pressure so your cat can relax.
How to Get a Cat Out from Hiding
After approaching your hiding cat appropriately, there are a few ways you can effectively get them out from their hiding spot.
Try CBD for Cats
If your cat is hiding from stress or physical discomfort, CBD is often a holistic and healthy way to make them feel comforted and calm. CBD is a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid found in the hemp plant. It doesn’t get your cat “high.” Instead, CBD interacts with the receptors in your cat’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which controls your cat’s overall well-being and balance.
The way CBD interacts with these receptors soothes aches and swelling. It can also improve your cat’s mood, keeping them calm. Drop some CBD oil in your cat’s meal, mixing it in discreetly. Try giving your cat CBD treats if your cat is not willing to eat a meal. You can also apply CBD catnip spray on their favorite toys or in the area they’re hiding, allowing them to feel the effects of both CBD and catnip simultaneously!
Try Wet Food or Snacks
Cat treats and wet food are often seen as tasty surprises for your kitty. But when you offer your cat a snack, make sure it’s not put right in front of them. It should be in a spot that forces your cat to move forward. Each time you give them a treat, make sure the treat is closer and closer to you or outside of their hiding spot.
Give Them Alone Time
Sometimes cats need time to process what’s made them upset. For example, if there is a new dog in the home, your cat may want to be left alone for some time before they are willing to come back out. If you don’t suspect that your cat needs medical attention, try giving them some time alone before you attempt to coax them out.
Provide Them with Other Safe Places
If you want to prevent your cat from hiding in an unsafe spot like behind the stove, make sure there are spots in the home where they can go to feel safe and comforted. Add some cardboard boxes to each room, lined with a soft blanket or sprayed with CBD catnip.
Or give them a cozy spot atop a cat tree where they can feel out of reach of kittens, puppies, and small humans. Being up high is another comforting position for cats to be in.
Try Some Toys
Some cats won’t be able to resist a shaking ribbon or jingly ball. Play with the toys right outside where your cat is hiding to entice them to come out. More playful cats will at least warm up to you and be entertained by your antics!
Should I Take My Cat to the Vet if They’re Hiding?
While lounging in a box or spending some time atop a cat tree is normal, sometimes your cat’s behavior may be a sign of something more serious. If you notice a change in your cat’s behavior (like hiding more than usual or refusing to come out), your cat may be experiencing pain, stress, or illness.
If your cat hasn’t come out of hiding in a day or more, contact a veterinarian immediately. You should also contact your vet if your cat has other symptoms of an illness, like vomiting, excessive grooming, urinating outside the litterbox, or breathing heavily.
Final Thoughts – Cat Hiding
There’s no denying that cats love hiding. It’s a way for them to feel comforted and relaxed. It may even be an enjoyable pastime for them. But if you notice your cat’s behavior has changed or they are hiding more than usual, the hiding may be a sign of something more serious.
If your cat is hiding, watch for their behavior. Are they shaking? Hissing? Or just rolling around playfully? If they seem to be in distress, you will have to find a way to approach your hiding cat and then get them out of their spot when it’s time to take them to the vet.
It’s very important that your cat feel comforted and happy. So make sure you have safe spots for them to hang out at all over the home, including boxes, cat beds, and cat trees. This will give your cat more confidence and keep them from slinking into unsafe spots like behind the stove or television stand. With patience and understanding, you will be able to get your cat out of hiding in no time!