Why Do Animals Hide When They Are Sick or Dying?

By Lisa McQuerrey

Animals may hide or seclude themselves when they’re sick or as they approach end of life as a self-preservation mechanism. Showing physical weakness in the wild can be an automatic death sentence, making hiding away an inborn instinct.

Hiding When Sick

If your pet is hiding or exhibiting other unusual behaviors or physical symptoms, take him to see a vet right away. Your vet can conduct a physical assessment to determine what’s going on with your pet’s health and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

An Animal’s End of Life

If you learn your beloved pet is approaching the end of his life, it can be a painful time for you as his owner. Watching your pet hide from you or seek solitude may make you feel like he doesn’t want you or need you, when in reality, he’s only following his natural inclinations. Animals recognize when they’re sick or ailing, and seeking out a safe haven is a way to protect themselves against predators.

Your pet may hide or seclude himself when he’s in pain. Involve your vet to effectively manage your animal’s condition, including the provision of adequate pain relief.

Hiding Instinct

Frail, elderly and sick animals may hide to guard themselves against chaotic, noisy or hectic environments that feel overwhelming. Inside pets may retreat to a kennel, a closet, under a bed or into some other secluded area of the house. Outside pets may look for holes, caves or porches to hide under. To be the best advocate for your animal, provide him with a safe, quiet and secluded spot where he can rest and feel protected.

Warm, soft bedding can be a comfort to an ailing animal, particularly one who has mobility issues and a hard time getting up and down. If possible, don’t make an elderly or sick pet navigate stairs.

Palliative Care

Discuss your pet’s final life stages with your vet to determine what can be done to make him as comfortable as possible. If you and your vet decide to stop actively treating your pet’s condition and let nature take its course, having a plan of action in place can be reassuring. Ask your vet about what to expect as your pet declines. There may come a point when you decide the best option is to help your pet make his final transition through pain-free euthanasia. Talk about this option with your vet before the time comes so you can be mentally and emotionally prepared.