Cats are not always the most social of creatures. While dogs usually seem to enjoy being around their humans 24/7, cats like to get away from it all and hunker down in a quite place where no one can find them.
That being said, there’s a kind of hiding that’s perfectly normal and the kind that could indicate something is wrong. If you have cats that are naturally less social, it might be harder to tell when to worry about their hiding, but if you have super-sociable cats like mine that follow you everywhere, the signs will be quite clear.
Now when I say there might be “something wrong,” I don’t necessarily mean something to do with their health. It could be any number of things, from a new piece of furniture they don’t like to a crazy squirrel tapping at the window. However, you won’t know for sure until you investigate the situation.
Under the weather
The first thing you need to do is rule out anything serious, aka health related. “Cats can definitely hide if they are not feeling well or have medical issues,” Mychelle Blake, MSW, CDBC, of Pet Health Network told SheKnows. If your cat is feeling under the weather, it’ll likely want to lie low, away from activity, just like people. This behavior, partnered with a lack of an appetite and diminished activity overall, might be the sign of a health issue, so you should it to the vet to make sure. If your vet doesn’t find anything wrong, it’s time to explore possible behavioral and environmental issues.
Stress and anxiety
Another common reason a cat may hide is something stressful has recently happened in or around the house. And while it might not have been stressful for you, your hypersensitive feline thinks otherwise. According to Blake, “Cats that are anxious or fearful will hide to make themselves feel more secure and avoid whatever in the environment is causing them to be afraid.”
For example, we had a guest stay for a week a couple months ago, and even though my cats are normally good with people, they hid from us the entire time that week. It may have had something to do with our guest owning a dog whose smell they weren’t a fan of, but to this day, we’re not really sure. The important thing is they came out shortly after he left, so we knew they were all right.
There are many possible stressors that could send your cats into hiding, though. A few big ones are a move, a new addition to the family (like a new pet or a baby) or a recent trip to the vet. Even if you’re the one who’s stressed, it can impact your cats to the point where they have to run and hide. It comes down to what their instincts tell them to do in scary or threatening situations.
Blake has some great methods to help ease the stress in these common situations. “If the cat is hiding due to a new pet, or even person, in the house, keep the cat isolated, such as in a bedroom behind a door so that the new resident that is scaring them doesn’t continue to make them feel upset. You can do slow introductions through a door or baby gate and pair it with things the cat finds wonderful, such as treats or petting or brushing.”
If you have a female cat that hasn’t been fixed, interacts with male cats (even siblings), and she’s suddenly hiding all day long, guess what? Blake says you might be looking at a bunch of kittens in the near future! Female cats tend to hide a few days before giving birth. It’s often in a dark, cozy place, like under the bed, or in the back of a closet where a fallen coat can provide comfort and warmth.
If your cat is hiding in high places, like on shelves or in drawers, I’m sorry to say but you might want to investigate your rugs and upholstery for fleas. Blake says cats will try to get away from those biting critters by hiding as high off the ground as they can.
At the end of the day, if your cat is suddenly behaving in a way that is contrary to what you normally see from it, don’t just chalk it up to a weird cat-ism, investigate it. If you can help your kitty out by bringing it to a vet or alleviating its stress, you’ll make your cat’s life (and yours) much better.