How to Lure a Cat out of Hiding

Hiding is an instinctual response for cats when they experience stress or fear.

But when your kitty starts spending most of their time tucked away, there’s probably something wrong with them.

So what causes cats to hide so frequently? And how can you lure your cat out of hiding?

Keep on reading to find out!

Reasons Why Cats Go Into Hiding

Cats are hardwired to hide when something in their surroundings causes fear or stress. But when your cat goes missing for several hours at a time, it’s an indication that something permanent is concerning them.

To help you investigate this behavior, we have compiled a list of the common reasons why cats go into hiding for long durations. Let’s discuss them in detail below:

1. Adapting to a new location or people

Change is always stressful for cats. Whether you’re moving houses or bringing a family member home, it might take some time for your cat to adjust to their new surroundings. They will prefer to stay hidden during this period as they gradually accept their new living space or new co-owner.

Adopted cats also go into hiding for the same reason. It takes time for them to acclimatize to a new house and parents, especially if you have other pets. To make them comfortable with their surroundings, you will have to spend some time speaking to your cat and interacting with them each day. 

2. Fear of visitors

It’s no surprise that cats are very anti-social creatures. They can get frightened of new faces and will retreat to their hiding space as a result. This hiding behavior will be even more apparent with cats that weren’t socialized during kittenhood. 

Some cats will also become afraid of loud noises during a family reunion or dinner. If your guest brought over their pet, particularly a dog, your cat will likely escape to their usual hiding spot.

3. Sickness or injury

Being ill or injured can make a cat vulnerable to attacks from predators. Thus, their instinct will cause them to go into hiding until they are fully well. Staying in a hiding spot will also help your cat save energy by avoiding unnecessary activity, which they can use to heal faster. 

But be wary. A sick cat’s condition can deteriorate quickly if they hide their sickness or injury for too long. That’s why it is crucial to investigate the reason for their hiding and treat any ailment before it can worsen.

4. Feeling trapped inside

If you have an outdoor cat that hasn’t gone outside for several days, they can start feeling trapped. As a result, they will try to escape to catch some air and relieve their pent-up energy.

If your cat becomes frightened or stressed during this time and doesn’t finds a way inside, they will retreat to any hiding space. This might be a tree, shrubs, sheds, or even your car.

5. Scared of predators

Although cats are natural predators, they do fear larger animals that might hunt them instead. If they spot an aggressive dog, feral coyotes, eagles, or owls, they will immediately run to their safe spot. Even if the cat is indoors and sees a potential predator through the window, it can frighten them into hiding.

Besides that, cats also fear objects that remind them of predators, such as vacuum cleaners and cucumbers. If they catch them by surprise, the cat can become stressed and might resort to their shelter for a couple of hours.

6. Impending death

No owner wants to hear about their cat dying. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that your kitty is hiding because it can sense its approaching death. Cats can recognize when they are gravely ill and are about to perish. During this time, they will find a place to hide where they are protected from predators, so they can peacefully pass away.

Luckily, this won’t be the case with most cats unless they are extremely old or terminally ill. However, if you’re suspicious, look for other signs like:

  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Loss of appetite or thirst
  • Weakness
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Low body temperature

Ways To Lure A Cat Out Of Hiding

After you’ve figured out why your cat is hiding, it’s time to lure them out in the open. To accomplish this task, you can use the following techniques that have been successfully tested by many owners. Note that not every one of them will work for your cat, so stay patient and try all of them until you find one that is most effective:

1. Use treats or food as bait

Food works like a charm when you’re trying to lure a cat out of hiding. A hungry cat will find it difficult to resist a tasty treat, even if they’re full. 

To do this, first decide what you will use as bait. You must pick something that tastes amazing, has a strong aroma, and is loved by your cat. Wet food and raw treats are perfect in such scenarios, but you can also use canned tuna or other treats depending on what appeals to your kitty.

It is also crucial to correctly use bait for it to be effective. Place the treat/food near your cat as gently as possible, especially if they have space to escape. If they come out of hiding and eat the treat, place another one close-by in the direction of your house. Keep feeding your cat calmly until they either start eating from your hand or seem comfortable in your company.

During this process, you need to be extremely patient and avoid sudden movements or eye contact. Most cats will jump at the sight of food; some might take a few hours, while others won’t budge even for days.

After your cat comes out of hiding, you might be tempted to just grab them. But your cat’s reflexes are much faster and they will likely escape from your reach. What’s even worse is that they won’t fall for the bait trick again and might escape to an even difficult place than before.

2. Attract your cat with toys

When working with a playful cat or a kitten, you can use toys to lure them out of hiding. This technique is more suitable when your cat is not hiding in a dangerous spot, such as a tree or outdoors.

For this technique, we recommend using the most attractive toy in your arsenal. Anything that makes a sound, has lights, or imitates a prey will work perfectly for this purpose. Examples of such toys include:

  • Teaser toys
  • Lasers
  • Feather toys
  • Motorized prey toys

Slowly place the toy near your cat, or gently wave it near their hiding spot. If your cat is afraid of your presence, use a motorized toy and stand afar so they can comfortably come out of hiding.

3. Have a chat with your cat

Here’s a fun fact; cats can recognize their owner’s voice and are highly reactive to it. When your pet is startled by the presence of strangers, a simple chat can make them feel at home and come out of their hiding spot. 

All you need to do is gradually approach your cat and sit near them. Then, you need to talk to them in a calm and gentle voice as if you’re having a conversation. Many cat owners have tested this technique and had great success. However, if your cat is recently adopted or deaf, it might be suitable to look at other methods.

4. Change your surroundings

We all know that cats are sensitive to change. This can be as simple as moving their bed to major changes like having visitors over for stay. If you suspect that your cat went into hiding because their furniture has been moved or you readjusted your room, see if reverting the arrangement makes any difference. If not, then it could be due to the presence of strangers.

In that case, you should try to make the atmosphere as cat-friendly as possible. Try to limit your cat to the bedroom, where they are away from human activity until the guests have left. During this period, keep your cat safe from children, adults, or pets that might scare or forcefully pet them.

5. Use catnip or Feliway

Nothing gets a cat riled up like catnip. It contains an oil that triggers the release of ‘happy’ chemicals in their brain when inhaled, making them feel relaxed and excited. This pleasant effect can force even the most stubborn cats to come out of hiding.

Since catnip aroma has a decent range, you can place it a few inches away from your cat’s hiding place or hold it in your hand. To make this technique twice as effective, use a catnip toy as it will trigger your cat’s hunting instinct as well.

Feliway is also just as useful for luring out cats that are hiding due to fear or stress. It releases a type of pheromone that is naturally secreted by the mother of a kitten. The spray has a calming effect on felines, reduces stress, and makes the cat more comfortable in their surroundings. 

There are also other benefits of using Feliway instead of catnip. For one, it doesn’t lose its effect with use or cause aggressiveness. Secondly, kittens do not react as much to catnip because their sense of smell is still underdeveloped. They are, however, able to detect pheromones found in Feliway and find it more comforting, especially if they have been recently adopted.

Where Do Cats Hide?

Searching for your cat might be the worst game of hide and seek you’ve ever played. The constant worry about your cat going missing or being injured can be nerve-racking for most owners. 

Luckily, a household cat will only hide in certain predictable places around your house. They will usually search for a place that is warm, dark, and compact enough to fit only themselves. Some cats will prefer places above the ground to monitor every activity, while others will choose to stay on ground-level with space to escape quickly.

If you’re certain that your cat is hiding indoors and all access to the outdoors is off-access, we recommend in the following places one by one:

  • Behind couches/curtains
  • Radiators
  • Refrigerators
  • Dryers
  • Stove
  • Washing machines
  • Cupboards
  • Handbags
  • Laundry baskets
  • Drawers
  • Suitcases
  • Toolboxes

On the other hand, many cats like to escape outdoors when they want to hide. Some might even be forced to escape if you have too many guests/pets over that are irritating them. A cat will also resort to hiding outside when they’re playing and suddenly spot a larger predator.

Unfortunately, leaving your cat outdoors is not an option as they are open to attacks from animals. In this scenario, the cat will need your help to escape and they will need it quickly. To make the search easier, look in the following places outside your house:

  • Garage
  • Large Pipes
  • Vehicles
  • Trees and sheds
  • Shrubs or bushes
  • Under the porch

FAQ’s

How long do cats hide?

Cats that are familiar with their owners and lightly scared will hide for 1-5 hours, while those scared of a stranger in the house will keep away for 1-2 days. In comparison, a recently adopted cat that got startled can hide anywhere from a couple of days to nearly 2 weeks if they’re disoriented and anxious.

Do cats starve themselves when hiding?

Yes, a traumatized cat will unfortunately starve itself to death in hiding. If they do not eat for 48 to 72 hours, they can suffer from liver failure and die. That’s why you must always keep a bowl of water and food nearby when your cat is hiding. Remember to check if the food is being eaten and change it along with the water after every 24 hours.

Should you force a cat out of hiding?

Most cats will come out of hiding by themselves after they have spent enough time in isolation. However, you will need to step in and draw them out (sometimes forcefully) in scenarios where your cat is:

  • Hiding outdoors
  • Sick or injured
  • Stuck in a dangerous spot (trees, poles)
  • Not eating for more than 24 hours
  • Vulnerable to attacks

How do you lure a kitten out of hiding?

Kittens are harder to draw out than adult cats as they remain hidden until their mother comes to help. According to our findings, Feliway and foods with a strong aroma work best when trying to lure out a kitten.

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