Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.
Cats hide. It’s just a thing they do! Hiding is a normal cat behavior and it’s not necessarily anything to be worried about, particularly if your cat’s always been “a hider.”
Sudden hiding behavior in cats? That’s a little different.
What Is My Cat Suddenly Hiding All the Time?
First, let’s talk about why cats who’ve always been hiders hide. They do it because they think it’s cozy; a comfy nook is their version of nuzzling into a pile of pillows on a big king-sized bed. Some domesticated cats like to lead nocturnal lives – they prowl around the house at night and like to rest and re-charge by themselves during the daytime.
Now let’s talk about why an otherwise social cat might start hiding all of a sudden. There are a few possibilities at play, all of them things you should be aware of.
Illness or Pain
One of the most obvious signs of illness in cats is hiding behavior. Cats don’t wear their feelings on their sleeves so when they’re sick, they hide. A cat who’s usually always down to play and suddenly goes into hiding could be nursing a bad cold, an arthritic flare up, or something more serious like a chronic illness . If your cat starts hiding all of a sudden, it’s recommended you take her to the vet for a thorough evaluation to rule out any health concerns.
Stress or Anxiety
Cats put on a big game but they’re actually hyper-sensitive to stress. And things that don’t feel all that stressful for you? Yeah, they can really rattle your cat. Maybe you’ve got a new project at work that’s changed up the hours you’re at home. Maybe you had a houseguest who smelled like an unfriendly dog, or maybe you had the volume up a little too loud last weekend when you were binging Stranger Things. Hiding is a natural cat reaction to feeling anxious – they’re literally trying to hide from the danger – and it will probably go away once your cat starts to relax. Stress-hiding is usually relatively short-lived so if it’s not, that’s when it’s time to head to the vet.
Is your female cat unspayed? Does her milkshake bring all the boys to the yard? If so, her sudden hiding behavior could mean you’re about to be the proud parent to a new litter of kittens. (Yeah. That’s why it’s important to have your cat spayed or neutered!) Pregnant cats don’t always look pregnant and it’s totally possible for their condition to go unnoticed until a bunch of meowing, hungry kittens show up. A few days before they give birth, pregnant cats will usually set up a cozy hiding spot where they can safely, privately labor – under the bed, beneath your desk, or behind a running appliance are all common indoor spots.
Cats are smart, but they adorably-clueless enough to think they can hide from fleas. If your cat is being bitten by fleas, she might be hiding as a means of trying to escape. Once you have an infestation, fleas set up nests around the house in spots like your cat’s bed, within the rug, and underneath furniture. If your cat’s hiding behavior has been particularly, um, elevated? – on top of the fridge, on your headboard, etc. – there’s a very good chance she’s trying to avoid the good chance she’ll be bitten by fleas near the soft surfaces down below. It’s time to call the vet (and a good exterminator!)
Hiding behavior in your cat isn’t anything to panic about but it is something to pay attention to. Never, ever scold or shout at your cat to come out of her hiding spot and whatever you do, do NOT pull her out of her hiding spot forcibly. That will only make her feel more unsafe than before, exacerbating the issue.
Do you need to take your hiding cat to the vet but she won’t come out? Ah, the age-old diliema. The solution, of course, is a house call veterinarian. Your cat gets to stay in her spot and you don’t have to sacrifice the sensitive skin on your hands and forearms to Mission: Extract the Cat. Win!