If Your Cat Has Started Hiding, It’s Important to Understand Why
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on September 24, 2018
Posted in Behavior Management
Cats aren’t always the most social creatures. They often spend most of their days lounging around in sunny spots or curled up in small places within your home. Your cat probably hides for a while during the day, out of sight, either napping or observing the world around it.
However, if your cat is starting to hide away in seclusion all day, every day, you might find it odd—and you should. If your cat was previously pretty social but is now unable to be spotted, that’s an even bigger sign that something is wrong. It’s important to tune in to your cat’s behavior and recognize the difference between play hiding and hiding to cover up an illness, injury or stress.
What is considered “normal” hiding?
It can be hard to distinguish the difference between normal and inappropriate hiding in cats, since they don’t always like to be around people or other animals. The best way to know if what your cat is doing is normal is to watch it.
If you have a new cat or a relatively shy one, there might be a few reasons it’s hiding that are totally normal.
- It’s in their genes: Cats are natural predators, meaning they like to stalk their prey, unseen, before going in for the kill. For a domestic cat, there is rarely prey to be caught, but your cat might like to hide away and observe, regardless.
- Hiding is safe: Cats love feeling secure in places where they know nothing can sneak up on them. Hiding spots are some of the safest places your cat can relax in, so they might go hide for a while to unwind or relax alone where they won’t be disturbed.
- Body temperature regulation: Cats may curl up in small, out-of-reach places because they want to get warm. A cat’s normal body temperature is higher than a human’s, so your house may be too cold for them some days, requiring a bit of extra coziness. This is why boxes, closets and under beds make perfect cat hiding spots—they’re warm!
When hiding is cause for concern
A sudden change in your cat’s behavior is almost always a sign that something is wrong. This is when hiding goes from a fun activity to a cause for concern. By not showing its face, your cat may actually be telling you that it needs your help.
Sudden hiding may be caused by a few different things.
- Health problems: Your cat won’t be able to tell you with words that it feels sick or something is wrong, but its sudden hiding could be a tell-tale sign that it is suffering from an illness. The hiding might be a way for your cat to conserve energy or feel safe while it isn’t feeling well.
- Pain: If your cat is suffering from something under the skin, like joint pain or an injured foot, it might start to hide to prevent itself from walking and causing more pain. It also may be trying to avoid humans who might cause it additional pain by touching the sore spot.
- Stress or anxiety: Your cat can experience stress and anxiety, much like you can. This stress is usually due to a change in its normal routine. Think about recent changes to your household, such as a big move or a new family member. Even smaller things, like rearranging furniture, moving the litter box and food bowls or moving to a different work schedule can trigger your cat’s anxiety.
What to do when your cat begins hiding more
When you notice your cat beginning to hide more regularly, you should start to pay even more attention to it. Visually examine it as much as possible, taking note of how often it uses the litter box, if it’s eating and drinking normally, if it’s walking or moving in a strange way and if there are any additional signs of illness or injury.
The way your cat looks can also tell you a lot. See if you can notice signs of weight gain or weight loss, hair loss or changes in its fur and eye appearance. All of these observations can help clue you into a potential disease.
If you think your cat is hiding due to stress, give it time to adjust to the changes. Allow your cat to have its safe, secure hiding spaces—forcing your cat to stay out in the open may cause additional stress that will not aid a medical problem or stress disorder. Pheromones, blankets and T-shirts that smell like you might be helpful additions to your cat’s hiding space to make it feel more comfortable, and calming supplements may help it feel more at ease.
Don’t try to force your cat out of hiding. It will stress your cat out, and you may end up with some nasty scratches or bites in the end, too. Instead, try to coax your cat out with food or treats. Then, take your cat to a vet to have it examined and diagnosed. With a proper diagnosis from a professional, your cat will hopefully be able to be treated and return to its normal routines.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan