Cats are masters of secrecy. Have you often wondered, ‘Why is my cat hiding in the cabinet, behind the sofa, in a bag, or in the washing machine?’ It might be part of a cat’s charm, but sometimes, a cat hiding can indicate that your feline is feeling unwell. Or dealing with big changes, like a move, illness, or pregnancy. Learn all the reasons why cats hide, plus the easiest way to find a hiding cat, and what you can do to prevent your cat from hiding in the first place.

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Is it normal for a cat to hide?

Some cats are bold and others are shy, but nearly all cats have a natural affinity for small spaces. These cozy spots offer warmth, safety, and comfort as a cat snoozes the day away. A hiding place that allows your kitty to slyly observe household activity is even better. And a location just out of your reach is the best of all!

This is typical feline behavior, and most cats will emerge from their hiding place and allow you to shower them with affection once or twice a day. And remember that your cat may be roaming the house at night, while you are asleep.

But if your cat suddenly starts hiding all the time and refuses to interact with you, there may be something wrong.

Why is my cat hiding all of a sudden?

When your cat begins spending most of their time hiding, it could be a sign of anxiety, stress, or illness

New cat hiding

When you bring a new cat into your home, it’s perfectly normal for the new kitty to hide. It needs time to become accustomed to its new environment. 

To help your cat adjust, create a safe zone for them. This is where your cat be separated from the rest of the home, such as a guest bedroom. Place a tall baby gate across the door. Visit your new kitty throughout the day. And allow them to explore the room alone for a day or two before integrating them into the house. They’ll gradually get more comfortable and will soon have the run of your house! Read more tips on bringing home a new kitten.

Cat hiding after moving houses

If your family moves to a new home, this can be a very stressful time for your cat

Before moving day, make sure your cat is wearing ID tags, is microchipped, and is wearing a GPS tracking collar. Safely transport your feline friend to the new home in a pet carrier. Once inside your new abode, keep your kitty in the closed pet carrier to avoid a dash out the wide-open front door amid the commotion of move-in day.  

Once the movers have gone, chose an empty room as the cat’s safe zone. Place your cat’s food and water bowls, bedding, and the open pet carrier in the room with your cat. Use a baby gate across the door. Visit your feline friend a few times during the day. Tell the kids not to leave the gate open! Your cat will gradually relax as they get used to the smells and noises of the new house. 

If the worst case scenario happens, your cat might bolt out the door into your new neighborhood. A GPS cat tracker can give you peace of mind and the exact location of your cat in real time. With it, you’ll always know where your beloved cat is. 

Relocating with your kitty: How to reduce your cat’s stress

Do cats hide when they are sick?

Cats often seek out hiding places when they are sick or injured. This is a natural behavior. In the wild, a sick or injured animal is an easy target for predators. So hiding is a protective maneuver by your cat.  

Why is my cat hiding and not eating?

Is your cat not eating in addition to hiding and refusing to play or interact? Then they may be ill or hurt. If this hiding behavior continues for a few days, take them to the vet for a checkup.

Also, if you have an outdoor cat that stops showing up at mealtime, they could be sick or injured. A GPS tracker will help you locate your cat instantly so you cat get them the care they need. 

Pregnant cat hiding

If you have an unspayed female cat that suddenly goes into hiding, it’s possible she could be about to deliver a surprise litter of mewing kittens. (This is why it’s important to have your cat spayed or neutered.) 

A few days before giving birth, a pregnant female cat will select a cozy spot to deliver her kittens. This might be under a bed, in a closet, or behind a sofa. In the wild, females giving birth are vulnerable to predation, so the hiding instinct is essential for survival. Set food, water, and a litter box nearby so the new mama doesn’t have to leave her kittens for the first few days. Learn how to determine if your cat is in heat. 

orange cat hiding in bed under grey covers, sleeping like a human

Cat hiding due to environmental changes

Any change in their environment, no matter how small, can cause anxiety for your cat and cause them to seek out a safe, comfortable place. For example, it’s not unusual for your cat to hide when you have a houseguest. This strange person may carry the smell of a dog, for example, which can set off alarm bells for your kitty. If your cat hides from a visitor, there’s no need to worry – a few hours after the coast is clear, your cat will emerge as if nothing happened. 

If a new person moves in – say a newborn baby, or a new housemate – your cat may retreat to their favorite hideout.  When it becomes clear that this new individual is here to stay, your kitty will gradually return to their normal habits. Allow the new person and your cat to get to know each other on their own terms. Don’t force an interaction on either one of them. 

Other disruptions – such as a change in your work schedule, a vacation, a cat-sitter, or a new pet in the home – can also induce hiding behavior as your cat seeks safety and security. Allow your kitty time and luxury of an undisturbed safe space as they adjust.

What are some preferred cat hiding spots?

Cats may choose some very odd places to hide, but most of these spots are away from the hubbub of your home or neighborhood; consist of a small, dark, enclosed area; include a window or opening that the cat can peek out of; and are often elevated so the cat can survey their surroundings.

Examples of indoor cat hiding places include:

  • Under or behind furniture or beds
  • In closets or cabinets
  • On top of wardrobes, cabinets, or appliances such as refrigerators
  • In washing machines or dryers
  • Behind furnaces or water heaters
  • In bins, boxes, or baskets (including full laundry baskets)

Outdoor cats may hide in:

  • Sheds, workshops, or garages
  • Among tall, leafy garden plants
  • Under the hood of a car, or in a wheel well
  • Under decks or porches
woman and cat walking outside

How long will a cat stay in hiding?

A cat that has chosen to hide because of stress or anxiety will remain hidden until the cause of their stress or anxiety goes away. 

If the stress is caused by a human or animal visitor, your kitty will come out of hiding an hour or two after the visitor departs. If the hiding behavior is caused by moving to a new home, it may take a few days or even weeks before your cat feels comfortable enough to explore their new space confidently. 

Just be patient and place fresh food and water near the cat’s hiding place. Don’t hover nearby and wait for your cat to emerge. It’s better to leave the room and allow your cat to come out when they are comfortable. 

A sick or injured cat may need to be removed from hiding. If you are placing food and water nearby but it goes uneaten for three or more days, it may be time to gently retrieve your cat and visit the veterinarian for a checkup. 

How to find a hiding cat

Many cats will come out of hiding on their own and return to you once they feel comfortable and safe again. However if your cat is sick, injured, or lost, you’ll need to know how to find the hidden cat yourself.

The easiest way to find a hiding cat is to track them with a cat tracker. Using tracking technologies like GPS and Wifi, it allows you to find your cat anywhere in the world – or anywhere in your house.

find mode demonstration in the tractive gps app
Find your cat no matter where they are hiding with LIVE Tracking and Find Mode of the Tractive GPS Cat Tracker.

Help your cat feel more comfortable

Cats that are naturally shy or in new environments often need time and patience for their anxieties to diminish. But there are a few things you can do to support your cat during a stressful life event, or calm a cat who is naturally timid.

1) Create a comfortable home environment

Give your cat ample opportunities to be alone if they need it. Constantly being chased by children or other pets can be very stressful. If your kitty slips under the bed for a few hours, that’s understandable. 

If you have more than one cat, pay attention to their interactions. Sometimes a dominant cat will antagonize a more laid-back kitty, creating undue stress. Give your cats multiple places to retreat so they don’t always need to be together.

2) Use a calming diffuser

Commercially available diffusers release chemicals that mimic natural pheromones emitted by cats. These pheromones communicate calmness to other cats. Diffusers can be plugged into a wall socket near your cat’s favorite hideout to help them feel less anxious. 

The diffusers work over time to calm your cat and can be useful when your cat’s environment is disrupted, such as moving to a new house or a new person living in your home.

3) Reinforce positive behaviors

By gently playing with or petting your kitty when they come out of their hiding spot, you can help them feel safe in your presence. Offer yummy treats or their favorite toys. Make their time with you as pleasant as possible and they’ll be eager to come out of hiding more often.

4) Make sure your cat doesn’t feel trapped

Cats, like most animals, feel safe when they have an escape route. Avoid closing doors and making your cat feel trapped – this will only increase their anxiety. Work on creating a safe and comfortable home for your cat.

5) Check with a vet

If your cat just won’t come out of hiding, make an appointment with your veterinarian. There may be an underlying health issue that needs to be checked out. 

woman cuddling cat on couch

How do I get my cat out of hiding?

Generally, the harder you work to get your cat out of hiding, the more they will resist you. Patience is a must. In most cases, it’s best to walk away and let the cat come out on its own terms if you aren’t in a hurry.

If you absolutely must get your cat out of hiding because you’re going to a veterinary appointment or heading out of town, here are a few ideas:

  • Keep the surroundings calm: Have your kids and other pets leave the room. There’s no need for every member of the family to call Fluffy’s name at top volume.
  • Use food to lure kitty out of hiding: Leave a trail of your cat’s favorite treats, or pull out all the stops and open a can of tuna. Condition your cat to receiving treats by shaking the bag before offering the goodies. This way, your cat associates the sound of the shaking bag with getting treats, and may come out of hiding when you simply shake the treat bag.
  • Employ a favorite toy: Pull a string or drag a wand-style toy across the entrance to the hiding spot. Only the most reticent cat can resist.
  • Catnip for the win: Catnip, especially fresh catnip, is irresistible to cats. Rub some on a favorite toy and place it just outside kitty’s hiding place. They’ll be out of hiding in no time!