If you have discovered that your cat hides away by himself quite a bit, and he isn’t quite the snuggle puss you had hoped he would be, there are plenty of reasons why this might be happening. Sometime a feline’s seemingly aloof behavior is no need for concern, while at times it may be require some quick attention and intervention.
Why Cats Hide
Most cats love to sneak away to quiet corners for their nap time, which, let’s face it, can take up most of your cat’s day! However, there may be other reasons for your cat’s seemingly reclusive behavior.
You may have adopted a cat who is naturally shy and is not yet comfortable in his new home with his new human parents. Particularly if the kitty has just recently come into your household from a neglectful or abusive situation, it may take time and patience before he is ready to bond with you and relax in his new home.
As a cat sitter, I have visited plenty of homes to find usually friendly cats hiding under beds or behind bookcases. These are the cats that are extraordinarily bonded to their owners, and they feel great stress and as result of their human’s absence. Usually after a day or two, these kitties usually come out from hiding and readily accept affection from their caretaker. You can read more about separation anxiety in my article, Please Don’t Go.
Have you ever seen a cat hide in a corner so he can jump out at another cat, or at you? My orange tabby, Colby, loves to hide behind doors and jump out to grab my leg as I walk by. I have also seen him jump out and wrestle with his kitty friends, too. Fun times! Also, cats love to hide in paper bags and boxes; to them this is playtime and something they really enjoy, not any cause for alarm at all.
Curling up in small, secluded places to get warm and snooze the day away is your cat’s idea of nirvana. Hiding while napping is part of their preservation instinct, as is curling up and making it harder to be spotted by predators (or anyone who may disturb their slumber). You may notice your cats spending more time napping in quiet corners as they get older.
A bored and ignored cat may spend time hiding away. If a cat is often left to his own devices and no one initiates playtime or cuddle time, soon you will have an aloof cat who actually shies away from human contact. Daily interaction with your cat is essential for his emotional well being, and to forge a deep, loving bond between owner and cat.
In nature, cats hide to quietly sneak up on their prey, as well as to hide away from potential predators. You may notice this behavior more with multiple cats, as this can be a form of play between them. Also cats that spend time outside may exhibit this behavior more, as their natural hunting and protection instincts are more actively engaged.
Should You Be Worried?
Usually there is no need to worry if hiding behavior is a usual behavior and is not accompanied by another other unusual behavior. Of course there are times when this type of conduct should be cause for concern, and not just taken at face value.
If this is new behavior for your kitty, there is a good chance it might be caused by a medical issues or by something that is causing your cat stress. Some behavior changes to watch for in addition to hiding are:
- Loss of Appetite: Usually this indicates a medical problem. It is very important that a cat be seen by a veterinarian right away; fatty liver disease can begin to set in after just three days without food, and it almost always fatal.
- Changes in Litter Box Habits: Again, usually this is a medical problem, but it could also have to do with litter box placement or stress in the household. Again, seeking the help of your veterinarian is important, as infections and blockages of the urinary track may also be causing this behavior.
- Uncharacteristic Aggressive Behavior: Sudden aggression could be a result of undiagnosed medical issues, but it may also be a result of stress or fear. A veterinary diagnosis is imperative. Being in pain can indeed cause aggression and hiding behaviors, as Dr. Sandra Mitchell points out in her article, How To Tell If Your Cat Is In Pain.
Major household changes can also bring about hiding behaviors, such as moving or adding a new cat (or dog) to the household. Even the addition of new household member (roommate, significant other) or removal of people from the household (divorce, kids leaving for college) can all add stress your cat. Some simply hide away and become frightened, while others become mean and aggressive.
Also, just because you know a cat is under stress or is new to your household does not mean this is necessarily the sole cause for his behavior. I recently adopted two cats, Picasso and Max, who were surrendered by a neglectful owner. I was called by the shelter specifically to take these two in as they were extremely scared and timid. They both understandably hid at first, but Picasso soon was romping around with the other cats, while Max got more and more reclusive and would shake any time I touched him. It wasn’t until one morning when he presented with sudden paralysis that we realized more was going on with this cat. After being rushed to the neurologist, Max was diagnosed with a toxoplasmosis infection of the brain stem. He is now doing well, and while he is still a but nervous, he does allow me to pet him and he sleeps by my side on the bed at night. You may know Max’s story if you follow me on Facebook; Max continues to improve daily.
Knowing your cat and his natural tendencies, personality, and as much history as you can discover are the keys to understanding the difference between a cat who hides for a worrisome reason, versus one who is just getting away for some quiet time. Only then can you truly know when to worry, and when to join your cat for a little quiet afternoon siesta!