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Why Cats Hide and When You Should Be Concerned

Cat hides under steps

Reviewed by: Dr. David Tittle,BVetMed, CertVA, GPCert(WVA&CPM), MRCVS

Cats love knocking things off shelves, kneading pillows with their paws, and other weird but perfectly normal habits. When it comes to hiding, it can be normal cat behavior or a sign that something is wrong with your feline friend. 

That’s why this article will investigate why cats hide and when you should be concerned. 

Is Hiding Normal for Cats? 

Hiding is completely normal behavior for cats and is not necessarily a reason for concern. Cat parents often find their feline friends under the bed, in the closet, on a shelf, and pretty much anywhere else they may deem cozy and removed. Even well-adjusted cats like sneaking away to safe places to relax and nap.

Hiding places provide warmth, quiet, safety, and even a good vantage point to keep watch over their surroundings. Put simply, cats enjoy being in enclosed spaces because they like to feel safe and secure. If your cat regularly hides, they probably have a favorite spot, or their hiding is patterned, like settling near the water heater or clothes dryer in the colder months. 

Why Do Cats Hide? 

There are many reasons why your cat may be hiding aside from wanting some quiet nap time. 

Change

Change can be stressful. If something has changed in your household, you should not be surprised if your cat hides until they can get used to unfamiliar smells, sounds, and sights. 

This can result from something as small as a new chair or as big as a new family member, or the loss of a family member. Cats also often hide when they are introduced to a new home, either through being adopted or moving houses with their family. 

Overstimulation

Loud sounds, children running around, household visitors, and anything else causing a commotion can be overwhelming for your cat. When stressed, they are likely to go find a quiet place to take a break from the household busyness. 

Fear

When stressed and frightened by a perceived threat, such as a dog, stranger, or loud noise, cats often respond by hiding. This fear response is likely to be only temporary, so your cat will only hide until they feel safe again. 

Discomfort

It is very common for cats to retreat and hide when they are experiencing physical discomfort. Particularly with age, cats can slow down and develop joint discomfort. 

In nature, cats are prey to larger animals, and discomfort can make them easy targets. Staying out of sight is a way for cats to hide any signs of weakness from potential predators. 

Illness

Similar to how cats may conceal physical discomfort, hiding signs of sickness is an instinctive way for them to avoid attention from predators. Underlying health issues can send your cat under the bed for extended periods of time, potentially causing their health to further decline while their condition goes unaddressed.

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Cat’s Hiding Habit?

Not all cases of a hiding cat are cause for concern. Sometimes, they just need some peace and quiet or a safe space to adjust to new things. There are some subtle indicators cat parents can keep an eye out for that signal something may be amiss with their feline friend that we’ll look at in this section.

Sudden Behavior Changes

When a social cat suddenly starts hiding, or when your cat’s hiding behaviors abruptly change and hiding periods lengthen, you should take note. Sudden changes in behavior can indicate that your cat is experiencing stress, fear, discomfort, or a medical issue. 

You know your cat and their habits best, so if something feels different about their hiding behavior, it is best to consult your veterinarian. 

Body Language

It is important to pay attention to your cat’s body language when they hide. Your cat will appear relaxed if they are just looking for some cozy alone time. They may sprawl across the floor or seem uninterested in anything going on around them. 

If your cat is hiding because they are stressed, afraid, and something else is going on, they may appear more tense. Dilated pupils, flattened ears, and a tightly tucked body with a closely wrapped tail are all potential signs of stress. Stiffness and lack of movement are clear signs that your cat is experiencing joint discomfort. 

Other Indicators

It is easy to understand why noticing signs of your cat being sick or otherwise uncomfortable can be difficult when they are hiding from you all day. Take note of any other behaviors that may accompany hiding, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, sleeping more than usual, and bathroom accidents. If you notice these or other symptoms, contact your veterinarian. 

What Should You Do If Your Cat Is Hiding? 

If your cat hides more than usual, your first call should be to your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to help you rule out and address any medical issues that may be causing your feline friend to not feel well. 

Once you have ruled out any underlying medical issues, you can let your cat make the decision to come out of hiding on their own. Forcing things can damage the trust between you and your feline companion. Just make sure your cat is comfortable and has easy access to food, water, and their litterbox.

Getting used to anything new can take time. You can help your cat adjust to new people by leaving an item of clothing with their scent on it around the house for your cat to inspect. Treats and toys may be effective motivators for some cats to come out of hiding.

How Can ElleVet CBD + CBDA Help Your Cat? 

Stress can negatively impact the physical and mental health of your feline friend. Seeing them stressed or fearful isn’t pleasant for you, either! 

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA Feline Oil  or CBD + CBDA Feline Paste can help relax your stressed cat and support an adjustment to household changes and overstimulation. In addressing your cat’s stress, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can lead to improved overall well-being and help them manage their fear-based response.

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products also work extremely well for joint discomfort. If your cat is hiding because they are physically uncomfortable, CBD + CBDA can help get them back on their feet and run the house again. 

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA works incredibly well for cats, but the dosing is specific for cats. This is so important because the wrong dose can be the difference between changing the life of your cat or little to no improvement.

What Is the Importance of a Safe Hiding Spot for Cats?

For many cats, finding the perfect hiding spot is an integral part of their behavior. Enclosed spaces like a cardboard box, under the bed, or even a cozy cat bed offer a sense of security, making them feel safe. 

New cat parents often notice their feline friend choosing unique places, such as behind the water heater or inside a seldom-used cat carrier, as their go-to hiding space. This behavior is especially common when a cat is introduced to a new home or environment. 

Cats love these secluded spots for napping and as a retreat from loud noises or an unfamiliar new pet. Pet parents need to respect these safe spaces, ensuring the cat feels secure in its new house. 

A well-placed diffuser emitting soothing pheromones can also help in reducing a cat’s stress, encouraging them to feel more at ease in their chosen hiding place.

How Can Playtime Influence a Cat’s Hiding Behavior?

Engaging in regular playtime with your cat can significantly influence their hiding behavior. Playtime helps acclimate a new cat to its environment, build trust, and provide an outlet for their natural instincts. 

For a hiding cat, especially one new to the home, interactive play can encourage them to come out and explore. Toys that mimic prey, like cat trees or feather wands, can coax a cat from its hiding spot, blending the safety of their enclosed space with the excitement of play. 

It’s important for pet parents to understand that while playtime is beneficial, it should be on the cat’s terms to avoid overstimulation, which might send them back to their safe place. Additionally, playtime can be a valuable tool for a cat behaviorist to assess a cat’s stress levels and overall well-being, ensuring there isn’t an underlying health issue causing the hiding behavior.

When Does Hiding Indicate a Health Issue?

While hiding is a normal aspect of cat behavior, certain changes can indicate a health issue or medical problem. Pet parents should observe their cat’s body language and hiding patterns over periods of time. 

A cat that suddenly starts urinating outside the litter box, shows reluctance in coming out for meals, or exhibits prolonged periods of hiding may be signaling a medical issue. It’s crucial to differentiate between a cat simply enjoying its safe space and one that is using its hiding place to withdraw due to discomfort or illness. 

A veterinary checkup is advisable if other symptoms like loss of appetite or lethargy accompany a cat’s hiding behavior. Feline behavior solutions often start with understanding the root cause of a change in behavior, whether it’s adjusting to a new environment, coping with the addition of a new pet, or a more serious health concern that requires professional cat care.

Bottom Line 

While hiding is perfectly normal cat behavior, any increases in your cat’s hiding habits can signal more serious issues like stress or discomfort. You know your cat best. Take note of any changes in their regular behavior and consult your veterinarian if you suspect your feline friend may have a medical issue.

As always, consult your veterinarian about any mental or physical health issues your cat may be experiencing. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your feline friend have the best quality of life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help. 

Sources:

Hiding Places Mean Happier Cats | ASPCA

The effect of a hiding box on stress levels and body weight in Dutch shelter cats; a randomized controlled trial | NIH

hIdentification of separation-related problems in domestic cats: A questionnaire survey | NIH

Playtime is purr-fect for your cat’s welfare | The University of Adelaide

Any health or medical information in ElleVet blogs is from a variety of public and reputable sources. This information is intended as an educational resource only and is not a substitute for expert professional care.

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