Hiding is an instinctual response for cats when they experience stress or fear.
But when your kitty spends most of its time tucked away, there’s probably something wrong with them.
So why do cats 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 may be wrong.
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 hide 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. They need to acclimatize to a new house and parents, especially if you have other pets. To help your cat get comfortable with its surroundings, you will have to spend time interacting with your cat every 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 not socialized during kittenhood.
Some cats also fear 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 quickly deteriorate if it hides its sickness or injury for too long. That’s why it is crucial to investigate the reason for its hiding and treat any ailment before it worsens.
4. Feeling trapped inside
If you have an outdoor cat that hasn’t gone outside for several days, it 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 find a way inside, it will retreat to any hiding space like a tree, shrubs, sheds, or even your car.
5. Scared of predators
Although cats are natural predators, they fear larger animals that might hunt them instead. They will immediately run to their safe spot if they spot an aggressive dog, feral coyotes, eagles, or owls. Even if the cat is indoors and sees a potential predator through the window, it can frighten them into hiding.
Additionally, cats fear objects that remind them of predators, like vacuum cleaners. 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, 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
- 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. You can use the following techniques that many owners have successfully tested. 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 trying to lure a cat out of hiding. A hungry cat will find it difficult to resist a tasty treat, even if it’s 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. Calmly feed your cat until they 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.
Don’t try to grab your cat when it comes out of hiding. Your cat’s reflexes are much better than yours, and they will likely escape your reach. Even worse, they won’t fall for the bait trick again and might find an even harder place to hide 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.
We recommend using the most attractive toy in your arsenal. Anything that makes a sound has lights or imitates prey will work perfectly. Examples of such toys include:
- Teaser toys
- 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 it calmly and gently 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. The change can be as simple as moving their bed to something major like a new person in the home. If you suspect that your cat went into hiding because you moved their furniture or readjusted your room, see if reverting the arrangement makes a 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. Give your cat a hiding place in the bedroom, away from human activity until it can acclimate to the new household member. 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 double your chances of success, use a catnip toy to trigger your cat’s hunting instinct.
Feliway is also very useful for luring out cats hiding due to fear or stress. It releases pheromones naturally secreted by the mother of a kitten—producing a calming effect, reducing stress, and making 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 effectiveness or cause aggressiveness. Secondly, kittens do not react as much to catnip because their sense of smell is still underdeveloped. However, they can detect pheromones found in Feliway and find it more comforting, especially if 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 missing cat 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 warm, dark place just big enough for them. Some cats prefer places above the ground to monitor every activity, while others 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
- Washing machines
- Laundry baskets
On the other hand, many cats like to escape outdoors when they want to hide. They may feel forced to escape if too many guests/pets are irritating them inside. 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:
- Large Pipes
- Trees and sheds
- Shrubs or bushes
- Under the porch
How long do cats hide?
Cats familiar with their owners may hide for 1-5 hours, while those scared of strangers in the house may stay away for 1-2 days. In comparison, a recently adopted cat that got startled can hide anywhere from a couple of days to nearly two 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 liver failure and die. You should always keep a bowl of water and food nearby when your cat is hiding. Check to see if the food is being eaten, and replace it with fresh food and water 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.