Can't find your cat? She could be hiding in any number of places, which is a fairly common practice among many feline companions. Some cats enjoy hiding from kittenhood, while others may start hiding later in life as a personal preference, or in response to an underlying illness or physical discomfort. Regardless of the exact reason that's motivating her decision, felines finding their ways into hiding spots is a behavior that dates back to early, pre-domesticated cats, and may be largely credited to their survival as a species today.
It's an instinctual behavior
Hiding is a natural cat behavior that wild and domestic felines commonly practice, and is mostly done in an effort to remain safe from potential danger. This survival tactic can be traced back to a domesticated cat's earliest ancestors, which are believed to be North African/Southeast Asian wildcats or leopards, according to The Library of Congress. Wild cats naturally seek shelter in dens, which allows them to remain out of sight and reach from predators, along with keeping them protected from harsh weather conditions. Domesticated house cats are obviously faced with less mortal dangers than their wild ancestors, or even feral cats living outdoors, but may seek shelter from stressful triggers, like loud noises, new visitors, or following trips to the doctor or other unpleasant places, says The Humane Society.
Pain or illness
Cats may also hide when they're in pain, or suffering from an illness, which is done in an effort to conserve energy. If you notice that your cat suddenly hides, a general wellness check may be in order. If you witness hiding paired with common symptoms of illness, like a noticeable increase or decrease in appetite, changes in their mobility or energy level, incessant vocalizing, or changes in the breath odor or color of the gums, Banfield Pet Hospital recommends that you consult your veterinarian for a check up. A healthy cat who is hiding should be left alone and offered the time and flexibility to come out on his own, while an unhealthy cat may require some careful and gentle coaxing in order to be assessed.
Popular cat hiding spots
While many house cats are undoubtedly the king or queen of their domain (read: your home,) cats typically feel more comfortable nestling in safe, quiet corners than lying about right out in the open, much of the time. Commonly, cats can be found hiding out in dark, out of sight spaces like under beds or couches, in closets, or in tight spots between a piece of furniture and a wall. Some people also find their cats secured in places like dresser drawers, kitchen or bathroom cabinets, behind curtains, or even inside of furniture, like box springs or the bottom parts of couches (the latter of which comes with a certain level of destruction to the item they are hiding in.)
Making safe places to hide
Many people opt to offer their felines established hiding places for a number of reasons, which will vary from cat to cat. Some cats who are new to their environments, be that a temporary or permanent one, may take a little time warming up to their surroundings and their new routine, and a hiding space can offer a sense of safety during uneasy transitions. It's also not uncommon to find established hiding spots, like cat caves or condos, in a particular spot in the home to offer a permanent refuge whenever a cat feels the need for some alone time. Such hiding spots can be purchased at most pet stores or online in a wide variety of sizes, colors, materials, and price points.
To make your own temporary hiding spot, essentially any material that provides a snug, dark space for your cat to get in and out of easily should work. Popular DIY hiding spots include shoe boxes or other small boxes, and paper grocery bags, says ASPCAPro. Additionally, a hanging towel can create privacy for cats as long as there is space between the towel and a secure surface for the cat to snuggle into. Whatever the shape, space, or structure your cat prefers, offering a little space for your feline friend to call his own often results in happier and more comfortable cats, which can come with added confidence and less agitation, creating a more positive relationship for everyone in the home.
Most often, cats hide from the people around them simply to find a little alone time, in the same way that we might look forward to retiring to our bedrooms at the end of the day. If you notice your cat beginning to hide more often than ever and she's exhibiting signs of physical discomfort, it's best to consult your vet as soon as possible to identify any underlying health issues.