By Dr. Lynn Bahr
Has your cat ever gone MIA in your own home? I lost an entire litter of kittens once in a small 1 bedroom apartment. All five furballs disappeared while I was out running errands. Imagine my panic and the frantic search that ensued to find them. Where could they have gone? I pulled out drawers, furniture, and the refrigerator to no avail. Fearing I would find them by smell weeks later, I sat on the couch to have a good cry. That was when I heard the tiniest little meow and a welcomed sign of hope. These little babies had been sleeping in the couch coils after crawling through a small tear in the fabric underneath. The five musketeers had discovered a new, dark, safe place to hide while mom was away. They knew instinctually how to find the purrfect hiding spot, remain quiet and keep close and warm nestled together.
Is It Normal For Cats to Hide?
Cats hide for many reasons and it is a natural thing for them to do. In fact, most cats love to hide. It makes them feel safe, secure, cozy and comfortable. Cats lucky enough to rest and relax without worry are fortunate to have the opportunity. As animals that are preyed upon in the wild, they must keep a vigilant watch at all times in order to survive. This is why they frequently doze or catnap with one eye open ready to spring into action at a second’s notice. They rarely have the luxury of indulging in a good deep slumber, unless of course, they happen upon a cozy and safe hiding spot. Seclusion allows them the opportunity to re-energize by offering a quiet place in which to rest. Since kittens born outdoors are typically raised in obscure dark places away from the dangers of prey, the need to hide is ingrained in them from a very early age. Even cats born indoors feel this genetic predisposition to seek hidden, warm, dark places of their own. Look at what my litter of kittens did when they were left on their own. They found a hiding spot inside the couch where it was secluded, dark and they were difficult to find.
Should I Let My Cat Hide or Prevent Her From Doing So?
Giving our indoor cats appropriate opportunities to hide is essential to their health and well-being. While most pet parents know that their cats need exercise, toys, and opportunities to play and climb, they are not as aware of their cat’s need to burrow away in dark, comfortable, and safe places to get away from it all. Having lots of dens within the home, where cats can tuck themselves securely away, is an important component to keeping them happy and enriched. Tunnels are ideal for cats to sleep, hide and relax in. It gives them the chance to escape from housemates, commotion, and noise and helps them cope better with any stressors in their lives. We all enjoy a little quiet time and your furballs do too.
New Ways to Create Cool Places for Your Cat to Chill
Your cats have probably found many comfortable, out of the way, places in your home to claim as their own. However, variety is the spice of life and indoor cats don’t get enough of it. If your cat’s “hidey hole” has been previously discovered, it no longer serves its intended purpose and a new one is in order. Here are some simple suggestions on how you give your cat a richer environment by creating new spaces for them to remain unseen.
- Place beds, caves, boxes, or baskets on shelves and bookcases where many cats feel safer nesting up high.
- For those who prefer being on the ground, place a box, bed, or cat cave behind the curtains or a piece of furniture. Let them pretend they are invisible.
- Create tents with sheets or blankets over different pieces of furniture or place dust ruffles on beds to construct new cool hiding spots.
- Give your cats a Hide and Sneak tunnel and periodically move it from room to room. It will create an entirely new fun experience each time.
- A pile of old clothes placed in a closet, quiet room or secluded corner makes an excellent den in which to hibernate. Your cat will feel safer surrounded by your scent and will love the coziness of your old clothes.
- Under your duvet, blanket, and inside your robe (Ok, they’ve already found all of those, right?)
Pay Attention to Abnormal Hiding Behaviors
These are all simple ways that cat owners can tap into their cat’s natural tendencies and help them cope better with life indoors. However, while hiding is fun and natural for most cats, some hide for reasons of fear, weakness or because they are feeling ill. Sick cats will often hide and any changes in habit warrant immediate medical care and attention. And these signs should be taken seriously and addressed quickly by a veterinarian. Cats that hide out of fear or extreme anxiety can be helped by professional behaviorists or veterinarians who are trained to correctly address these types of problems. Giving fearful cats places to hide is an important coping strategy and they should be allowed to do so freely, but there are also medications that can help reduce their need to do so. These are situations where seeking professional assistance will help your cat deal with life better.
Have you discovered all of your cat’s secret hiding spots or are you still looking for some?
About the Author
Lynn Bahr DVM is a graduate of the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine who credits a special grey and white ball of kitten fluff with leading her down the path of a career in feline medicine and behavior. Her areas of interest and special care for felines include health and wellness, lifetime enrichment, hospice care, strengthening the animal-human bond, ending the practice of declawing, and the ability to speak cat. Dr. Bahr is currently the CEO of Dezi & Roo, a company that manufactures and sells solution-based pet products. She is a Fear Free certified professional and serves on the board of directors for Pandemonium Aviaries.