This post is written by guest author, Allison Hunter-Frederick, from Allison Helps Cats LLC.
All Pet Voices may receive commissions from affiliate links included in this article.
This post is part three of a three part series:
- Part 1: Why Do Cats Need to Climb?
- Part 2: Why Do Cats Need to Scratch?
- Part 3: Why Do Cats Need to Hide?
Cats are hiders. There are many reasons that cats hide, some instinctual and others practical. They may hide high or low, and there are many ways we can provide them with hiding places.
REASONS TO HIDE
The foremost reason cats hide is that in the wild they’re both predator and prey. They’re instinctively driven to hide when on the prowl for prey because being able to hide in small spaces is part of what makes them stealthy hunters. They’re also driven to hide when they’re trying to avoid becoming prey themselves because any new stimulus is a potential threat.
Hiding is key to wild cats finding food and staying alive!
Cats may also hide as a part of temperature or clock regulation. During the winter cats may seek out warm places to hide, while in the summer they seek out cool places. Because cats are diurnal (more active at dawn and dusk), they’re more likely to play during those hours and to hide the rest of the time.
There are several other reasons cats hide. Sometimes they feel uncertain about or become overwhelmed by their surroundings. Hiding allows them to scope out what’s going on from a safe distance, to avoid confrontation, or to rest.
If your cat shares a home with children, hiding can give them a reprieve from the chaos. Hiding provides cats in multi-species households with some assurance that nothing can sneak up on them. Finally, a private nook might simply serve as a safe place for your cat to relax and take an uninterrupted nap.
While hiding may be a normal part of being a cat, it can also become excessive and a reason for concern. Hiding might be viewed as excessive if it interferes with your cat’s daily survival activities such as eating, drinking, and using the litter box.
To know if hiding is excessive, you can also look for hiding behaviors that seem like signs of withdrawal. Catster advises, “If your cat usually reveals herself from her hiding place at the shake of the treat bag but starts to ignore the call, you might want to consider whether something is amiss.”
Cats may hide when they aren’t feeling well or when something isn’t right. In this case, you should take your cat to a veterinarian. If your veterinarian gives your cat a clean bill of health, evaluate your resources or consult with a cat behavior consultant.
TYPES OF HIDING PLACES
Companion Animal Psychology contends that the best hiding places for cats are those that are the “right size” for them and enclosed. Cats typically prefer vertical spaces that have perches where they can see what’s going on (although some prefer horizontal spaces). Cats in a multi-cat home may choose to cuddle together in the same safe spaces, but they should always have access to their own independent safe spaces too.
Cat Trees — vertical: When choosing a cat tree, make sure that it’s sturdy and that it has a solid base. The ideal location is near a window with a scenic view.
Cat Shelves — vertical: You can buy wall-mounted shelves or make your own. You can also check out Ikea Hackers for project ideas such as turning doll beds into cat beds or converting shelves into a cat space.
Cat Beds, Cat Caves, and Cat Hammocks — vertical or horizontal: Buy beds, caves, and hammocks that are the right size for your cat and then place them in quiet parts of rooms where you spend most of your time. Such locations will allow your cats to be near you while still in their own safe space.
Cat Carriers — horizontal: They can serve two practical purposes, a means of transport and a safe space. For carriers to serve as safe spaces, you’ll need to keep them out and open at all times. Make sure you line the carrier with something cozy, and to add treats and toys to provide a reason for cats to use it. Keeping carriers available will also help with crate training, as cats will learn to view them as safe spaces and not instruments of torture — which they can be if only used to take your cats to the vet.
Cat Tunnels — low: Besides serving as a hiding place, tunnels can also be fun. They can be made from paper, plastic, or mesh. There are even three-way, four-way, and five-way tunnels. Some are collapsible, which is useful if you want to put them away, and some have multiple arms.
When dreaming up hiding places for your cats, start by identifying your cat’s existing hiding places and take note of areas where no hiding places exist. Is there a spot on your linen shelf that you could reserve for your cat? Is there a mantel that you could add a cloth to? Is there a piece of furniture that you could drape with a towel or blanket so as to create a ‘fort’ for your cat to hide in?
You could also simply provide your cat with a cardboard box. Catster quoted cat science expert John Bradshaw as saying that cats pick such boxed-in places as hiding spots because in the wild, they’re constantly searching for “nooks and crannies to rest in because what they want is to basically have five sides out of six protected.”
HIDING SPOTS TO AVOID
Although cat owners sometimes place litter boxes in laundry rooms, the latter isn’t a safe place for our cats. They present real dangers to cats who might be looking for a warm place to hide. Cats can be killed when locked in clothes dryers or electrocuted if they find themselves behind dryers.
Utility rooms and garages can also pose risks to our cats because these rooms usually contain toxic substances. To be safe, wipe up all spills, and restrict access with a closed door.
By nature, cats are hiders, and so it’s up to cat owners to provide for their needs. If we restrict their access to certain areas with closed doors or other deterrents, then we need to provide them with viable alternatives. Cats depend on their high and low hiding spots for safety, escape, and comfort.
About the Author: Allison Hunter-Frederick is a cat behavior consultant, cat therapy handler, and pet education blogger. Her articles have been published in local and national publications, as well as on her blog, Lincoln Pet Culture. Through her business, Allison Helps Cats LLC, she uses a research-based, positive reinforcement teaching approach to help cat owners improve their relationships with their cats all from the comfort of their home.