Cats may conceal themselves for a multitude of reasons. For most owners, this behavior causes serious concern, especially if their cat has been hiding for a considerable time. Some hiding spots can be also dangerous for cats and can be problematic when their owners try to retrieve them. It can even be more difficult if the cat intentionally resists its owner, despite the familiar voice and offers of treats.
Fortunately, there are creative solutions you can use to help you successfully and safely lure your cat from his hideout. Do it with lots of love and patience and you should be able to entice your four-legged friend out into the open on his own terms.
Reasons your cat may be hiding
Cats hide when they are seeking comfort and security. They may also retreat out of their owner’s sight if they feel stressed, threatened, or in pain. All of these feelings can be triggered by the following events:
1. Adjusting to a new home
Have you recently adopted a new cat from the shelter, or just moved with your cat into a new home? In either case, your cat is likely to retreat to a hiding spot in response to the sudden change.
Cats are highly sensitive to changes in their environment. They are territorial animals and tend to seek security from a familiar place they view as their home. In the event of a move to a new home, the abrupt transition can cause a cat to feel very anxious and their response is often to hide for a few hours – or even days – as they become accustomed to the new environment.
If you have just rescued a cat from the shelter, hiding can be a normal response, especially if the cat is shy or frightened. Keep in mind that our whiskered friends are also gifted with a very sensitive sense of smell, and for them, a new owner means new scents to learn about. It will take time and lots of patience to help your cat grow accustomed to his new home.
2. Fear of unfamiliar faces and scents
Being rather paranoid creatures, cats might resort to hiding if they see unfamiliar faces or smell new scents in their environment. This could be visitors to the home or a new pet added to the family. Cats feel comfortable and secure around familiar environments and faces, and any changes can make them feel cautious or threatened.
3. Poor treatment
Cats that have been abused by previous owners could feel constantly frightened and cautious about their environment. The cat could have been beaten for no reason, yelled at for being feisty, or abandoned without food or upkeep. Overall, the trauma of this treatment causes painful memories and mistrust for a cat, meaning he might seek refuge under a sofa at the slightest perception of trouble.
4. Lack of socialization
If your cat is not used to interacting with a lot of people or other animals, then chances are he will feel insecure or extremely shy when surrounded by visitors in your home or when introduced to new playmates. Such situations may well cause him to retreat to his favorite hiding spot to avoid the unfamiliar beings.
5. To stay warm
Your cat’s hiding behavior could simply be triggered by changes in the weather. Our furry friends are excellent at finding secure, warm locations to regulate their body temperatures, and if this is his reason for hiding, your cat should come out on his own when he feels better.
6. Giving birth and parenting
When your cat is about to give birth, one of the many noticeable changes in her behavior will be spending more time in secluded areas in your home. That is because a mother cat is extremely protective and wants to prepare a warm, safe place for her kittens. This reclusive tendency is commonly known as nesting behavior.
7. Health issues
Cats are masters at hiding their pain and discomfort. Whenever they feel ill, their common response is to seek a secure place away from people and other animals. This behavior is a survival tactic for felines; they are instinctively aware that the discomfort or pain makes them vulnerable because they would not be able to run or defend themselves in the face of danger.
Cats are intuitive about when they are nearing the end of their lives. If they are gravely ill and in great pain, they tend to seek solitude to and safety from predators while in their most vulnerable state. Hiding gives them a sense of security and the opportunity to soothe themselves. They may also hide from their humans to avoid being touched or petted while they are suffering.
Ways to get your feline out of hiding
Drawing your cat out from his hiding place can be challenging, especially when it is not on the cat’s terms. Extending your arm to pull him out by force can cause an anxious cat to scratch or bite you. A shy cat might cower further back under your furniture and refuse to budge from his spot for an even longer time. To avoid being accidentally hurt by a panicked cat, here are some creative tips you can try to lure him out of his shelter:
1. Use tasty treats
Tasty snacks can be an effective reward to gradually lure your cat from his hiding spot. You can create a strategic trail of treats leading out from his hiding place and let him come out at his own pace. Every time he gets closer to you, offer some snacks to let him know that being outside gets him rewards.
When using this method, make sure that you have treats ready to hand so that when your cat comes out, you can immediately reward him. Never be tempted to make sudden movements or grab your cat, as this will only force him back into his hiding spot. Use positive reinforcement to gradually encourage him out and allow him to establish trust with you.
Some tasty treats that most cats cannot resist are tuna, beef or chicken meats, and cat biscuits. Use a small portion every time you lure your cat out. Eventually, the strong aroma of the snacks will tempt even a nervous cat to come out and pursue the delicious food.
Keep in mind that cats can have varying responses to bribery with food. Some might even take a few days before finally feeling safe enough to come out of their shelter. Be patient and give your kitty plenty of time until he is ready to come out on his own.
2. Call your cat with a comforting voice
Cats are sensitive to sounds. Using a comforting voice while calling his name can be helpful as it gives your cat a sense of security and lets him know you are not a threat. Consider talking to your cat and bonding with him until he gets used to your voice. He will eventually feel more relaxed around you and you can gradually coax him out of hiding.
3. Lure the cat with toys
Another method that works is to stimulate your cat’s hunting drive with toys. Any small moving object that resembles prey can intrigue a cat and move him out of his hiding spot to play. Draw the toy closer to your cat’s location and watch him chase and pounce as you gradually move the toy away again.
Some toys that are appealing to cats are:
- Feather and strings
- Mouse toys
- Sock toys
- Laser pointers
4. Remove stressors
So you have already used toys and food to try to lure your cat out, but still, he remains reluctant to leave his hiding place. Then you might need to investigate what else could be causing your furry friend’s behavior and try to eliminate it.
Cats may be timid for a number of reasons. Stressors might include loud visitors or noisy children in the home. Even the noise from moving furniture or a nearby construction site can be enough to make your cat nervous. If current conditions are too stressful for him, you might need to give him a private room or area where he can feel more safe and relaxed.
5. Use a Feliway spray or diffuser
Feliway is a product made of artificial pheromones which mimic the natural substance released by mother cats to calm their kittens. It comes in the format of a spray or a plug-in diffuser and releases a pheromone smell that is soothing for cats. Fur parents often turn to Feliway to comfort their cats and reduce behavioral problems triggered by stress, such as excessive scratching or urine spraying.
To use Feliway, simply spray or plug in the product around the area where your kitty hides. The smell should make your cat curious and he will eventually come out into the open to find out where it is coming from. This method works really well if your cat suffers from stress or anxiety.
6. Use catnip
Cats generally cannot resist catnip. The minty and lemony smell, like the soothing fragrance of pheromones, provides a sense of euphoria for cats. Bribe your cat with catnip to retrieve him safely from his hiding place. Make sure to place the bait near his location, but far enough for him to come out a few inches to reach it.
7. Wrap the cat with a blanket
Most of the methods above may not work if your cat is hiding due to illness. Retrieving him can be even more challenging in this case, since the pain or discomfort he feels might force him to scratch or bite you. Cats that are gravely ill can also be very weak when pulled out from their shelter.
The best way to retrieve a sick cat is to wrap him in a thick blanket as you gently force him out into the open. The blanket serves as a barrier in case he tries to bite, and allows you to restrain him. Swaddle him gently with a towel, like a cat burrito, to handle him safely while trying to keep him calm.
Common cat hiding places
Felines, in general, can be extremely good at selecting their hiding places. They may choose their spot based on temperature, hunting viability, privacy, and many other factors. So, if your cat is missing, you may need to consider searching these common hiding places:
- Closets or wardrobes
- Under furniture
- Inside cardboard boxes
- Under the bed
- Behind floor-length curtains
- Clothes washers and dryers
- Roof of your house
- Large pipes
- Trees or shrubs
The list above is not exhaustive and some of these can be dangerous spots for your cat to hide. If your cat loves hiding for any reason, it is best to provide him with an appropriate hiding place, like a customized cardboard box, to protect him from getting into hazardous areas in and around your home.
How long does it take a cat to come out of hiding?
The time it takes for a cat to come out into the open will vary depending on what triggered the hiding behavior in the first place. Some cats can be easily bribed with food or toys in a couple of hours, while other anxious felines might need a few days or even weeks to feel confident enough to come out. The only thing you can do is make your cat feel safe and loved. Give him lots of time to relax and come out from his hiding spot at his own pace.
How to prevent your cat from hiding?
Prevention is way better than dealing with a cat’s hiding problems in the future. That is why it is helpful to understand what triggers your cat to hide.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that abrupt changes are stressful for most felines. If you are about to move to a new home or adopt a new pet, consider planning ahead to ensure a smooth transition for your cat.
Providing a calm environment for your cat is beneficial to avoid stress from loud visitors or children. If you have adopted a kitten, make sure to socialize him as early as possible to help him get used to being around other pets or people.
Cats can be overly playful or energetic at times. They might accidentally break your favorite vase or damage your furniture. It is very important to have lots of patience and be forgiving if this happens. Use positive reinforcement instead of harsh verbal or physical punishment. Mistreating your cat can have unpleasant consequences and will only force him to hide away from you even more.
If your cat does resort to hiding when frightened, allow him to come out at his own pace. Never force him out (unless it is an emergency), as this will only cause him to resist and bite you. Call your vet if you suspect your cat is hiding due to illness.
Wrapping it up
Cats tend to conceal themselves when they are in pain, feeling threatened, or are stressed by a new environment. As a fur parent, it can be a frustrating process to get your cat out of his hiding place, especially when he resists your efforts to lure him out.
Understanding the reasons behind your cat’s behavior is essential for you to devise an effective strategy to retrieve him safely. Learn how to manage his stressors and never forget to give him lots of love whenever he feels uncomfortable or threatened.
Image: istockphoto.com / Remains