Why do cats hide?

Cats have a tendency to hide for seemingly no reason. Let’s take a closer look at this intriguing behavior!

Cute, quirky, and even cuddly at times, cats are personable companions with some mystifying habits, including a tendency to hide. While it can be completely normal for your cat to look for a comfy hideout, this particular feline behavior can sometimes indicate that there’s a problem. So, why is your cat hiding? Is it something you should be worried about?

Cat hiding behavior 101

In the wild, cats hide out of necessity. Domestic cats living in the lap of luxury don’t need to conceal themselves from prey, nor do they need to hide from predators; after all, we provide them with everything they need. Still, cats have strong instincts – and the urge to hide under the sofa, on top of the bookcase, and inside cardboard boxes never goes away.

Just as wild cats hide from predators and prey, domestic cats seek hiding places during play sessions, snuggling into a tight spot and lying in wait before pouncing on another cat or an unsuspecting catnip mouse. Your cat will feel like hiding in situations that spark fear or anxiety, too. Unfamiliar guests, loud noises, and anything else that’s out of the ordinary can send a cat scrambling for a safe place.

Cats also instinctively hide when moving into unfamiliar territory. Whether you’ve just adopted a new cat or if you and your pet have moved to a new home, it’s likely that your whiskered friend will tuck herself away in a safe spot and gradually expand her territory as she comes to realize that she’s safe.

Cats need safe places to hide

Even the most gregarious felines feel the need to hide from time to time. After all, it’s natural cat behavior! Feline behavioral experts explain why cats choose the hiding places they do – and why often, a cat’s favorite hiding place is snug, with only one way in. Feltcave explains, “It all comes down to safety: Cats are most vulnerable when they are sleeping or caring for kittens. They want to be protected on all sides, and truly, this makes sense. In fact, feeling safe and secure is the reason why cats hide in boxes!”

What if you’d rather not have a cardboard box tucked away for your cat? The good news (for both of you!) is that there are plenty of safe, cat caves to choose from. These are soft and cuddly inside, they match your décor, and they’re easy to pop into your cat’s preferred hiding place. Just like your cat’s favorite cardboard box, these beds have a single entry point – and they’re much cozier!

Offering a safe, appropriate hiding place is a good way to deter your cat from hiding in a place that might not be safe, or that might be inconvenient for you. If your cat hides behind the dryer or in another spot where she might be injured or killed, consider blocking access to the area. If you aren’t able to block access, you may want to put a vinyl carpet runner on the floor with the nubs pointing up instead of down. This makes the space unwelcoming, and encourages your cat to use a more appropriate hiding place such as a bed or cat cave.

When should you worry about this behavior?

If your cat’s hiding behavior is out of character, it’s possible that there could be a problem. Cats often hide when they don’t feel well; this is instinctual as in the wild, sick and injured animals are seen as easy prey by larger predators. This is one reason why it’s so important to keep your finger on the pulse of your cat’s normal behaviors; if they normally sleep on their climbing tower but suddenly begin choosing crazy hiding places instead, a trip to the vet might be in order.

Bullying sometimes occurs in families with more than one cat. The cat that’s being picked on will attempt to protect herself by retreating to a safe place, only emerging when her tormentor is otherwise occupied. In this case, it’s very important to provide additional resources such as extra litter boxes, private eating arrangements, and safe spaces to both cats.

Comfortable, safe hiding places enrich your cat’s living space while providing a cozy retreat. So long as you watch for changes in behavior, it’s perfectly fine to let your kitty do what comes naturally. Your cat will feel secure at home – and she’ll almost certainly appreciate your efforts!


Emma Williams is a professional writer and pet parent who has written for big publishers including Canadian Dogs Annual, The Telegraph, Home Beautiful and Marriage.com. She enjoys sharing her knowledge on pet health, lifestyle topics and pet behavior.