Why Does My Cat Hide?
Is my “Hidey Cat” Sick or Just Unfriendly? The reasons can be as simple as he is still getting to know you, or as complex as illness or lack of socialization.
by Rita Reimers, Multi Cat Behavior Expert
Have you been wondering why your cat is hiding away by himself quite a bit? Do you worry why he isn’t the snuggle puss you had hoped he would be when you adopted him? Or has his behavior suddenly changed from being a happy outgoing kitty, to hiding away most of the time?
Sometimes a cat’s seemingly aloof behavior is no need for concern, but at other times it may be require some quick attention and intervention.
How can you tell the difference?
So, Why Does My Cat Hide
Most cats love to sneak away to quiet corners for their nap time, which, let’s face it, can take up most of your cat’s day! However, there maybe other reasons for your cat’s seemingly reclusive behavior.
- Shyness: You may have adopted a cat who is naturally shy and is not yet comfortable in his new home with his new human parents. Particularly if the kitty has just recently come into your household from a neglectful or abusive situation, it may take time and patience before he is ready to bond with you and relax in his new home.
- Separation Anxiety: As a cat sitter, I have visited plenty of homes to find usually friendly cats hiding under beds or behind bookcases. These are the cats that are extraordinarily bonded to their owners, and they feel great stress and as result of their human’s absence. Usually after a day or two, these kitties usually come out from hiding and readily accept affection from their caretaker. You can read more about Separation Anxiety in my article “Separation Anxiety in Cats.”
- Playtime: Have you ever seen a cat hide in a corner so he can jump out at another cat, or at you? My orange tabby, Colby, loves to hide behind doors and jump out to grab my leg as I walk by. I have also seen him jump out and wrestle with his kitty friends, too. Fun times! Also, cats love to hide in paper bags and boxes; to them this is playtime and something they really enjoy, not any cause for alarm at all.
- Nap Time: Curling up in small secluded places to get warm and snooze the day away is your cat’s idea of nirvana. Hiding while napping is part of their preservation instinct, as is curling up and making it harder to be spotted by predators (or anyone who may disturb their slumber). You may notice your cats spending more time napping in quiet corners as they get older.
- Boredom: A bored and ignored cat may spend time hiding away if no one initiates playtime or cuddle time. If a cat is often left to his own devices and amusement, soon you will have an aloof cat who actually shies away from human contact. Daily interaction with your cat is essential for his emotional well being, and to forge a deep, loving bond between owner and cat.
- Stalking/Hunting: In nature, cats hide to quietly sneak up on their prey, as well as to hide away from potential predators. You may notice this behavior more with multiple cats, as this can be a form of play between them. Also cats that spend time outside may exhibit this behavior more, as their natural hunting and protection instincts are more actively engaged.
To Worry or Not to Worry
Usually there is no need for worry, if hiding much of the day is their usual type of behavior. Of course there are times when this conduct should not just be taken at face value.
If this is new behavior for your kitty, there is a good chance it might be caused by a medical issues or by something that is causing your cat stress. Some behavior changes to watch for in addition to hiding:
- Loss of Appetite: usually this indicates a medical problem. It is very important that a cat be seen but a veterinarian right away; fatty liver disease can begin to set in after just 3 days without food, and it almost always fatal.
- Changes in Litter Box Habits: again, usually this is a medial problem, but could also have to do with litter box placement or stress in the household. Again, seeking the help of your veterinarian is important, as infections and blockages of the urinary track may also be causing this behavior.
- Uncharacteristic Aggressive Behavior: sudden aggression could be a result of undiagnosed medical issues, but may also be a result of stress or fear. A veterinary diagnosis is imperative, as a cat in pain may exhibit aggression and hiding behaviors.
Major household changes can also bring about hiding behaviors, such as moving, adding a new pet to the household, and even the addition of new household member (roommate, significant other), or removal of people from the household (divorce, kids leaving for college). Any of these changes may add stress your cat. Some cats will simply hide away and become frightened, some will take the changes in stride, while others become mean and aggressive.
New Cats and Hiding Behavior
Just because your cat is new to the household does not mean this is necessity the sole reason he is hiding. I recently adopted two cats, Picasso and Max, who were surrendered by a neglectful owner. I was called by the shelter specifically to take these two in as they were extremely scared and timid. Both understandably hid at first, but Picasso soon was romping around with the other cats. Max got more and more reclusive and stayed afraid of me.
It wasn’t until one morning when he had sudden paralysis in his front legs that we realized more was going on. After rushing Max to neurologist, he was diagnosed with a toxoplasmosis infection of the brain stem. The answer to why does my cat hide was simple; he was sick… (Sadly, Max did not make it, but we forged a close bond in the months he went through treatments before he passed, and he knew he was well loved and cared for until the end…)
Getting to Happily Ever After
So now that you know some reasons, it’s up to you to decipher “why does my cat hide?” Knowing your cat and his natural tendencies, personality, and learning as much of his past history as you can are the keys to understanding why your cat hides. Only then can you truly know when to worry, and when to simply join your cat for a little quiet afternoon siesta!
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