Cats are among the stealthiest animals in the world. Felines are born predators, but also aware of their status as potential prey. This ensures that cats are masters of hiding their presence. If a cat does not wish to be detected, it can disappear – even within the home.
If your cat has gone missing in the house, start by searching your cat’s favored territory. Look under beds and on closets, and in any empty boxes. Cats love tight spaces. Make sure your cat is not hiding somewhere warm, like a clothes dryer. Eventually, move the search to the yard. This includes sheds and garages.
If you cannot find your cat, tempt it out of hiding. This can usually be achieved with food. Shake a bag of treats or use an electric can opener for starters. Alternatively, tempt your cat with catnip or toys.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Do Cats Hide in the House?
- 2 How to Find a Missing Cat in Your House
- 3 How to Lure a Cat Out of Hiding
Why Do Cats Hide in the House?
Hiding is a common behavior in cats. It is not automatically a cause for concern as cats hide for a number of reasons. Do be mindful, that if a cat spends more time hiding than not, something is likely amiss.
Stress is a common reason for cats to hide. Felines can experience stress for a number of reasons. Most of the time, this is a temporary issue. The cat will quickly bounce back after hiding for a while. Other cats can appear afraid of everything, living in constant anxiety. Common stressors for cats include:
- Loud noises
- Changes to routine
- New pets or humans in the home
- Bullying and aggression from other pets
- Unsanitary living conditions
Learn what is causing your cat stress and manage the trigger. As discussed by The Veterinary Nurse, chronic stress is a severe problem in felines.
Ill Health or Injury
If your cat is unwell, it will hide from everybody and everything. Cats loathe revealing any sign of illness. They consider this to be a weakness. This opens up the risk of another cat stealing territory.
Cats that feel sick prefer to hide. The cat will wait out their issue, returning to interaction when feeling stronger. Many illnesses plague cats, ranging from minor to significant.
Observe your cat, making a note of any potential symptoms. In the case of an older cat, arthritis may be setting in. The cat will find it increasingly difficult to hide discomfort while walking. Numerous internal organ concerns can also impact senior felines.
Your cat may not be sick but injured. This is likelier in outdoor cats. Your cat may have been involved in a traffic accident. As per Animal Welfare, 56% of cats involved in such incidents are injured. Your cat may also have been in conflict with a local animal or fallen from height.
Tempt your cat out of hiding and give it a thorough once over. Check for any signs of injury, including bleeding, limping, or excessive verbalization.
Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not antisocial loners. Felines enjoy the company of human owners. Cats want this to be on their terms, though. Too much attention, petting or noise can grow exhausting for a cat.
If a cat is feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed, it needs a time out. This is why cats need assigned territory. Even if so, it may find somewhere else to hide until it cools off. Allow your cat this space to hide.
The cat will return and interact again once it feels refreshed. If you continue to bother your cat, it may look to escape the house. Peace and quiet can be one of the main reasons for cats to visit other homes.
Felines can be mischievous, and may be aware that you are looking for it. It amuses the cat to watch and hear you hunting high and low to no avail.
The cat may also be playing a hunting game with another pet. Cats often like to ambush prey. This could include another cat or dog in the home. Some cats also hunt their owners for sport. The cat will pounce upon your ankles, seemingly from nowhere.
This may be fun for the cat, but it can be dangerous. The cat may get underfoot and be accidentally hurt. It’s no fun being scratched or bitten when you least expect it, either. Equally, being permitted to constantly hunt owners can make a cat dominant.
If your cat is prone to this behavior, consider fitting it with a belled collar. This means you’ll be able to track down the cat and hear it coming. Wildlife Research stated that belled collars reduce successful feline hunts by half.
How to Find a Missing Cat in Your House
If your cat is missing, you’ll need to start a thorough search. Do not panic. If you start to call your cat’s name in a nervous tone, it will remain hidden. The cat will pick up on your anxiety and share it.
Start looking where you saw your cat last and check preferred territory. Be aware though, if the cat wants to hide, it may be somewhere unique. Felines are skilled at avoiding detection when they consider it necessary.
Take a flashlight and start methodically searching your home. There are any number of locations where you may eventually locate your cat. Approach each possible hiding place in turn.
If a cat wants to be left alone, it will gravitate to an empty room. Cats feel safe and secure in such a location. Take a good look in any rooms that are not in regular use. This could include spare bedrooms, laundry rooms, basements or even broom closets.
Cats will enjoy such locations for a number of reasons. Naturally, they will be quiet. This is perfect for a cat that is feeling unwell or overstimulated. It will be able to sleep without fear of disturbance.
An unused room will also be untainted by human scents, or that of other pets. This will help a stressed cat feel more safe and secure. The cat will remain in this location until it feels brave enough to rejoin the home.
Cats love tight spaces. Most cats feel vulnerable and exposed in large, open expanses. This flies in the face of feline survival instinct. As a result, be sure to check any small, compact locations in your home.
That doesn’t just mean closets. Drawers, for example, can be a great hiding place for a cat. This will be especially appealing if the drawer contains clothing. This will be soft and carry comforting scents.
You are equally likely to find your cat in an empty cardboard box. This is especially likely if you have relocated to a new home. The cat will be initially discombobulated by the change. It will relish the chance to hide in an unpacked box for a spell.
Cats use their whiskers to check if they fit into a space. If whiskers can enter a hole, the cat will assume its body mass does the same. With this mind, check even the smallest of spaces. What looks uncomfortable to you may be the perfect hiding place for a cat.
Cats like to hide under the bed. This appeals to a feline’s natural hunting behavior. The cat will be crouched, watching everything from the lowest vantage point possible. This posture brings a cat down to the level of a rodent or insect.
Under the bed is also usually dark, tight and quiet. The cat has likely learned that it is rarely disturbed when hiding under a bed. This will lead to the cat considering this its territory. Many felines retreat to such locations when they wish to nap or cool off.
Finally, the cat will know that you do not fit under the bed. The same applies to other household pets, such as dogs. This makes this a perfect location for a cat. Felines consider the space beneath a bed to be a tailored location for their size.
In the wild, cats like to climb trees. By reaching an elevated plane, felines can survey the world around them. This means they can see both predators and prey from a safe distance. In addition, it protects the cat from ground-based threats.
Many domesticated cats retain this instinct. The top of a closet, therefore, provides a great hiding place. The cat knows that it is out of human eyeline. It can watch the world go by without being disturbed. Your cat may spend hours in such territory without you realizing.
Do not be alarmed if you find your cat atop a closet. It is unlikely to be in danger. Felines have an innate understanding of what is a safe height to scale. Your cat will have long mastered the art of leaping from the closet to the soft bed.
A dangerous hiding place that some cats gravitate to is the washing machine or tumble dryer. These appliances will be warm if recently used, providing comfort. Cats also enjoy the white noise generated by such machinery.
Always check a washer or dryer before turning it on. Your cat may be curled up and sleeping soundly inside. What started as a hiding place became a restful napping spot. Try to avoid letting your cat turn this into a habit.
It is unlikely, but your cat may even have crawled into an oven. The smell of food can be tempting to felines. Check such a location with care. If your cat was inside, check for any burns. You will also need to sanitize the cooker thoroughly before using it again.
If you keep your laundry in a basket or hamper, cats will likely hunt it down. The scent is used clothing comforts cats. It smells like an owner – and, oftentimes, the cat itself. Even washed and ironed laundry is appealing. It is typically warm and comfortable.
Cats may crawl into a laundry hamper for some privacy, too. This is likeliest if the cat does not have a hooded litter box. It’s a chance to hide from outside stimulation for a while.
While your cat is hiding in such a location, ensure it does not eliminate. This invariably points to a health issue, whether emotional or physical. Once can be an accident, but regular occurrences are more than mere hiding.
If you are certain your cat is not in the house, check the back yard. Cats can be master escapologists, especially when in heat. If you left a back door or window open, the cat may have gone to explore.
Finding a cat in the yard can be challenging. There are any number of places the cat may be hiding. Focus your search on the follow areas:
- Under bushes
- Piles of debris
- Garages and shed
- Up trees
If your cat is hiding in the yard, you’ll need to coax it out. This requires a different – often more patient – approach to finding a cat in the home. Keep a vigilant watch from a safe distance. If your cat gets out of the yard, it could be missing for some time.
How to Lure a Cat Out of Hiding
If your search yields no results, you’ll need to tempt your cat out of hiding. Cats can be stubborn. A feline will not emerge until it wants to and feels safe in doing so. There are numerous ways to tease a cat out of hiding.
Just walking around and calling your cat’s name is unlikely to yield results. Cats to understand their own names. They just do not care. Unless you can make it worth the cat’s while, it will remain in hiding.
One thing you must never do is force the cat to leave its hiding place. Let the cat come out when it is good and ready. Physically wrestling a cat out of a space will see one or both of you getting hurt.
You could just stake out your cat. Eventually, it will grow hungry or need the litter box. A particularly frightened cat will avoid litter or elimination, though. It’s best to get the cat out of hiding sooner rather than later.
Remember that the cat is hiding. This means it will not necessarily be comfortable emerging straight into open space. Get around this by giving your cat somewhere safe and secure to emerge to.
The best way to do this is provide a variety of empty cardboard boxes. Dot these around the home if you do not know where your cat is. Allow the cat plenty of opportunities to find its way into these safe spaces.
Keep a watchful eye for when the cat emerges, but don’t stay too close. Cats have an excellent sense of smell. They will know if you are nearby. If the cat is hiding from you, for any reason, it will not emerge while you are in the vicinity.
Food or Catnip
Food can be a great motivator for many cats. Wander around the home shaking a box of treats. Most cats will automatically recognize this sound. If a cat is treat-focused, it will be unable to resist emerging. You could also create a trail of treats for a cat to follow.
Strong-smelling wet food can also be a useful tool. Place a bowl of food in the box or space that you have set up. Drizzle some tuna juice or gravy into this food. This combination of scents will make the cat’s stomach rumble. Eventually it will come to eat.
You may not even need to use food. Sometimes, just switching on an electric can opener will do the trick. If your cat associates with sound with dinner, it may come running. Some cats need more tangible evidence that food is coming, though.
Some cats are more motivated by catnip than food. If this is the case, use this herb to get your cat out of hiding. Sprinkle the catnip somewhere just out of your cat’s reach. This will encourage the cat to venture out and find it.
If your cat is playful, toys may lure it out of hiding. Try dragging a laser pointer across the floor and see if your cat chases it. If you have a suspicion as to where you cat is, dangle a preferred hunting toy. Your cat may be unable to resist lunging at this item.
Even if a favorite toy does not work, do not give up hope. As per Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats appreciate novelty in toys. Try offering something new and unfamiliar. This may be enough to pique your cat’s curiosity.
You could also sprinkle catnip on a toy. This will potentially provide a, “best of both worlds” scenario. A stubborn cat may be able resist catnip or toys. Both at the same time, though, will be too tempting.
As a last resort, you could try scaring your cat out of hiding with noise. Loud, sudden noises will startle a cat. This will typically lead to it bolting from a hiding place.
Noise should never be a go-to solution. Your cat may be hiding because it is already stressed. Noise will add to this disquiet. You could do more harm than good in the long term. Sometimes, it may be essential though. For example, if you need to urgently find your cat for a veterinary appointment.
The vacuum cleaner may be enough to get your cat out of hiding. Hissing will also work. This is the universal sound of danger for felines. Avoid using an airhorn or anything similar. This can damage your cat’s hearing.
Cats that are hiding in the house can usually be found. You’ll just need to be calm and thorough in your search. If your cat hides regularly, consider fitting it with a belled collar. It is advisable to learn why your pet is so inclined to hide, though.