It doesn't surprise us when our cats act a little aloof or antisocial at times- after all, it's in their nature! - so, when we see them hiding, we tend not to think much of this behaviour.
Often, cats will hide for intuitive reasons, such as when they're frightened, when they find themselves in unfamiliar environments, to avoid fighting, or when they're hunting prey. Usually, they'll emerge from their hiding spots within a few minutes; however, if they remain in hiding for more extended periods than usual, it can indicate that something is wrong.
The psychology behind hiding
We know that cats will hide instinctually, and the amount of time a cat hides for often depends on their personality. Cats that are frightened easily will take to hiding more frequently. In contrast, cats that are a bit more social will hide a lot less often.
Hiding makes a cat feel safe and comfortable, and in a fight or flight situation, their instincts will usually tell them to take flight, to avoid difficult situations. Most cats will pick a dark place to hide, as not being able to see the stressor is usually enough to make them feel safer. But how do you know if this behaviour is normal? If you realise your cat has started to hide for longer periods, it can indicate that something more serious is going on. With this in mind, you should always pay close attention to your cat's behaviour.
Why do cats hide?
Cats are incredibly self-reliant animals, and usually, when they are injured and unwell, they tend to withdraw to find a safe place they can remain until they start feeling better.
These are three of the main reasons that cats choose to hide:
Your cat is sick or in pain
If you know that your cat is a very social animal and suddenly they've taken to hiding more regularly, it can mean that they're sick, or in pain. Cats tend to be very passive animals, and they can endure pain without expressing it. So, if you believe your cat is in pain or might be sick, keep an eye out for other irregular behaviours, as they might have the flu, a cold, or even something more serious. You may even want to contact a vet if your cat is spending most of their time hiding away.
Your cat might be stressed or suffering from anxiety
Cats are highly sensitive animals and aren't very good at dealing with stress or anxiety. Cats can become stressed due to a new baby, loud noises, new environment, a noisy houseguest, rearranged furniture, and much more.
Once the stressors have been removed, they will usually make their way out of hiding as they feel more comfortable. If you believe your cat is hiding because they're anxious or stressed, make sure to give them some space, and monitor the amount of time they spend in their safe place. If you realise that the environment is calm and your cat is still in hiding after a long time, call your vet.
Your Cat Might Be Pregnant Or In Labour
Female cats will hide if they are pregnant or about to give birth, as they need a comfortable and safe place to protect both themselves and their new babies. If you notice your cat starts hiding, and you suspect she might be pregnant, try to provide a safe space for her to relax and give birth.
Where can you expect your cat to hide?
Cats will usually hide in spaces that feel private and safe. Some cats might choose high places, such as the top of a wardrobe or a window, so they can observe their surroundings without being seen. In comparison, other cats might prefer a dark and low hiding spot away from loud noises and other jarring activities.
It is essential for you as a cat owner to know where they choose to hide, as they might not have picked the safest hiding spot. Even though they might feel safe in a specific hiding spot, it can be hazardous if your cat decides to hide under a car or in the dryer, for instance.
What can you do to help?
Here are a couple of things you can do to ensure your cat is safe and comfortable in their hiding spot:
Provide a safe hiding spot: To avoid having your cat hide in unsafe locations, provide a safe hiding spot. Cat caves are a great way to give your cat a comfortable and cosy place to hide that will help them relax and destress.
Provide more than one hiding spot: This is especially relevant if you have more than one cat. A more assertive cat will kick others out from their hiding spots, so it's a good idea to have a couple of safe places scattered around the house.
Accommodate your cat's needs: Cats will hide at any age, so it's important to accommodate your cat's needs as they age. For example, if your cat is suffering from a joint problem, make sure you provide steps to reach any high places or place more ground-level hiding spots around the house.
Avoid cleaning areas frequently: Try not to spoil your cat's favourite hiding spot by cleaning it too regularly. It may cause them to feel unsafe when they notice a change in their environment.
Now that you know that hiding is standard behaviour for cats, make sure you monitor your pet to ensure that they are not silently suffering from a more significant issue. Even if your cat is only hiding for comfort, it's still important to follow the tips above to ensure your cat not only has multiple comfortable hiding spots, but that they're safe in them, too. And, if you suspect there's something more ominous behind your cat's behaviour, contact your vet immediately.