It can be strange to find your cat hiding in a dark corner of your home. It can also be difficult to understand why a cat would choose a small and subdued location when there are so many nicer areas to relax.
Environmental changes, stress, overstimulation, confusion, fear, trauma, and sickness are the most common reasons why your cat might retreat to a dark hiding spot. Hiding is one of the primary ways that cats deal with alarming and unsettling circumstances.
So much of your cat’s behavior can depend on its age and health. If you have a senior cat, then hiding in a dark place could be health-related. Every case is unique, so let’s explore the reasons why cats seek to avoid detection.
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Why Do Cats Hide in Dark Areas?
In the same way that a person needs an occasional break, cats often seek privacy for the same reason.
This is why you may find your cat outside under patio furniture or hiding under your bed or duvet cover. Your cat could be taking a nap in a safe and quiet place or is seeking to stalk in the darkness.
Although most of the reasons for this behavior are nothing to worry about, you should always pay close attention to what is happening.
If your cat is hiding in places it has never bothered to explore in the past, this could indicate that there is a mental, emotional, or physical concern.
1) Uneasy Environment
Cats can have a hard time handling uncertainty and under-stimulation. If your cat’s environment is bland, it will be left to create its own enjoyment.
Cats require both mental and physical stimulation. If nothing is happening, your cat may sneak away to a dark corner of the room and shut down. This can lead to depression and a feeling of unwellness.
If you lead a hectic lifestyle, it can be easy to neglect your pet. Make it a priority to do something fun with your cat several times a day.
Something as simple as playing with a piece of string can be the perfect antidote for your cat’s boredom.
2) Stress and Overstimulation
If cats are overstimulated, they can become overwhelmed and look for a place to unwind. Are people coming in and out of your home? Have you moved furniture to a different location?
When your cat wants to be alone all of a sudden, it is entirely possible that it is stressed and feeling overwhelmed.
Just as under-stimulation can lead your cat to seek the shelter of a dark location, too much engagement can affect them the same way.
Once or twice a day, spend 15-20 minutes with your cat and help them to relax with a petting session. While playtime is vital, so is some type of calming interaction.
3) Lack of Social Skills
Cats of all ages can have difficulty relating to other animals, so they may retreat and hide. If your cat is unique, it can lead to the development of isolationist behavior.
With no one to relate to in any capacity, your cat can develop behavioral issues and have a strong desire to be left alone.
It is vital that your cat develops social skills. A healthy and productive lifestyle depends on it. Cats seek shelter when they feel threatened.
4) New Home or New Family
Why is my cat hiding and not eating? Well, environmental changes could well be to blame.
Have you moved home, bought new furniture, added a second cat or had a baby? While the joys of a new life, surroundings, and possessions make humans happy, this is rarely the case for your cat.
Because indoor domestic cats are creatures of habit, drastic changes can stress them out and cause them to retreat.
Their actions are telling you that it is an unsettling experience. Perhaps your cat has started hiding outside.
Vacuum cleaners, blenders, drills, hairdryers, fireworks, etc, can cause your cat to panic. Has your smoke alarm ever gone off? These things can be scary for felines because they don’t really understand what’s happening.
Given that most forms of fear are subjective and virtually impossible to prevent, you should make it a priority to avoid the most obvious concerns.
You should never scare your cat on purpose. For example, putting a cucumber next to your cat because its reaction is amusing to you.
It’s also possible that your cat is hiding after a fight. This could be a fear-based response due to fighting a more dominant/larger animal, or even that your cat is trying to conceal an injury.
6) Emotional Trauma
Cats that have been adopted from shelters may have mental and physical scars. Unless your cat was born into your family or you know the full history, its past life might have been one of significant trauma. Physical abuse at the hands of a previous owner is a common problem.
If you think that your cat is hiding out of the fear of being beaten or attacked, you should do your best to be understanding and consult with an animal behavioral specialist.
7) Multi-Cat Household
Too many cats in one home can be a problem, especially if your “hiding cat” was the only cat and is now surrounded by several new pets that all want your attention and food.
The process of socializing and integrating your new family is vital. Spend time with your cat and make it a priority to help your pet to adjust to its modified lifestyle and new family.
Psychology Today details the different ways to resolve conflicts within a family of cats. If you sense that your cat is hiding out of anger and frustration toward other cats in your home, the advice is very helpful
8) End of Life
Cats that are nearing the end of their journey may feel vulnerable and want additional security in their final days. It is common for cats who are near death to seek a safe place.
While there is a sense of dignity involved in the process, another reason why cats hide is to avoid becoming prey. Cats in the wild will hide when they are sick or dying to avoid being found.
Because weakness can be easily detected, the ability to lay low is important. Cats would rather die in peace than fall victim to an attack.
Shelter and protection are the core reasons why pregnant cats hide. When a female cat is hours before labor, she will find a spot to give birth. In some cases, that area is selected many days in advance.
After giving birth, the mother will stay with her kittens for several weeks. She will only leave in short intervals to eat and make sure the location remains a good hiding spot.
Because newborn kittens are blind and unable to protect themselves, they need all the care and shelter possible.
What Are the Most Dangerous Hiding Spots for Cats?
While most hiding locations are reasonably safe, some areas can put your cat’s life at risk. The danger of predators, electric shock, poisoning, and entrapment are all areas of concern. Bad hiding places for cats include:
- Washing machines
- Clothes dryers
- Under reclining chairs
- Bushes and wooded areas due to predators
- Car garage (chemicals, gas, oil, garden tools, etc.)
- Underneath parked vehicles
Several of the hiding areas noted above can be secured and made off-limits to your cat. By closing the door to your laundry room, securing garage door(s), and sealing off your fireplace you can prevent injury or even death.
PetMD has noted ways to help your cat to overcome a pattern of hiding. Dilara G. Parry, who is a certified cat behavior consultant, discussed the importance of setting up a safe hiding spot for your cat.
This is a way of giving in to your cat’s hiding habit and establishing a safe shelter for comfort. Parry noted that a sturdy cardboard box with a blanket placed inside could be a safe and comfortable hiding location.
If your cat has a secure area for seeking refuge, then it will be less likely to hide in a less safe location.