How To Get A Cat To Come Out of Hiding Outside

Cats often go into hiding when they’re scared, upset, or unsure of their surroundings. Indoors, this is perfectly acceptable behavior, and cats will emerge when they’re ready. If your cat is hiding outdoors, though, it can be a problem. Your cat will be exposed to bad weather, predators, and other threats that can place its life in jeopardy. You will need to lure the cat out of hiding and into the safety of your home.

The most effective way to get a cat out of hiding is with food. Be sure to choose strong-smelling, aromatic food such as tuna, wet cat food, or other meats. If that doesn’t work, catnip will be irresistible, even making the cat more docile as you retrieve it. If the cat is unable to smell the bait, then you can tempt it with the sound and sight of toys. Using a laser pointer or a feather on a string will encourage the cat to hunt instead of staying tucked away.

Sometimes cats need to hide for their own safety and comfort. In this case, you can tempt the cat indoors where it can hide safely by providing a clear escape route. Setting up a box near its hiding spot, with food and water, can also help the cat transition to a safer locale. If all else fails, you may need to forcibly remove the cat from its hiding spot or call for help. A vet, the fire department, or even animal control will have the experience necessary to retrieve your cat.

How Can I Get My Cat To Come Out Of Hiding?

Getting a cat to come out of hiding might seem like an easy task, but it’s not as simple as it looks. Cats are prone to hunkering down out of reach when they get outdoors. They may even claw at owners if they’re pried out sooner than they want. Because of that, you’ll need to proceed carefully. Here’s the main way of luring a feline out:

  • Discover why your cat is hiding: Cats may be willing to emerge, depending on why they’re hiding. For example, your presence scares away a rival animal.
  • Remove any forms of stress: If the cat is hiding from a stressor, it will refuse to come out until that’s gone.
  • Calm the environment: Cats may get even more scared if everyone rushes around to try and get it out, so tone down the surroundings.
  • Call to the cat: A soft tone of voice and a familiar call from you may tempt the cat into emerging.
  • Food: If all else fails, there’s always bribery. Offer your cat a treat with plenty of aroma, such as tuna.
  • Offer a trail of treats: If you line up food to lure it away from the hiding place, it may be tempted to leave when you’re not around.
  • Give it time: Some cats need to calm down in their own time. Instead of rushing the cat, try letting it stay in hiding for a bit longer. It should come out to eat or drink soon.

Of course, these tactics will change depending on your relationship with the cat. Because cats are such unique animals with their own personalities, there is no catch-all method for luring them out of hiding.

How To Attract A Hiding Cat

Of course, the easiest way to attract a hiding cat is to use food and special treats. You should choose your cat’s favorites, such as fish, meats, and juicy gravies that are safe for cats. However, the use of bait might not work if the cat isn’t hungry. If this is the case, you should try catnip.

Catnip is a minty, aromatic herb that catches the attention of felines time and time again. The herbs contain natural chemicals that seem to trigger happy neurotransmitters. This makes cats excitable and euphoric. Catnip is even known to reduce stress in cats and improve their behavior, so long as it’s used sparingly.

Whether your cat is hiding in the bush or under the porch, the scent of catnip is irresistible. As long as your cat catches a whiff, it will be tempted to draw nearer. You can:

  • Offer catnip in your hand.
  • Place catnip in a small bowl outside of the feline’s hiding spot.
  • Pack the inside of a toy with catnip, especially balls or bells designed to work as catnip puzzles.
  • Sprinkle a little catnip in a trail that leads outside of the hiding spot.

Depending on where the cat is hiding, it may not be able to smell the bait. For example, cats tucked up in trees will be too far away for a handful of catnip to work. In this case, you’ll need to get more creative:

  • Use cat toys: Jingling its favorite toy within its eyesight (and earshot) will encourage it to come out and play.
  • Engage its hunting instincts: A laser pointer or fake mouse on a string may tempt the mighty little hunter to switch tactics and stop hiding.
  • Give it an obvious escape route: Your cat might opt for a better hiding spot if you clear a safe path to this new haven. That’s especially helpful if the cat is in a tree, and you’d rather it hid indoors.
  • Tempt it with food long-term: If the cat isn’t scared of you, then try setting up an aromatic picnic near its hiding spot. If it’s too patient to come out right away, then it will eventually come out when it does get hungry.

Why Is My Cat Hiding?

According to PLOS ONE, cats hide for many reasons, but the most common one is behavioral stress. Even a well-adjusting cat may choose to stay tucked underneath your porch if it’s:

  • Feeling trapped indoors
  • Overwhelmed by the wide-open space of your home or yard
  • Scared of strangers in the house
  • New in the home and yet to acclimatize
  • Sick or injured
  • Expanding its territory
  • Hiding from predators

According to the National Council of Science and Technology, cognitive dysfunction in elderly cats is another reason why a cat will go into hiding. Senior cats often become disoriented, confused, and senile as they age. This can lead to changes in behavior as their senses decline. Old cats will prefer to seek out solitude and hide during their twilight years.

How Long Will A Scared Cat Hide?

If your cat is scared, it will hide until it feels safe again. How long this takes will depend on the cat, what scared it, and how comfortable it is in its environment. Here are some common scenarios:

  • A lightly startled cat, such as by a loud noise, may hide for up to 1 hour.
  • A very startled cat may hide for 1-5 hours or until the scary thing stops or leaves.
  • If a cat is new to your home, it may hide for 1-2 days after being startled.
  • If the cat was a stray, it might hide for up to 7 days, especially if it’s upset by all the new stimulus in your yard.

The longest that a disillusioned or disoriented cat can stay in hiding is about 2 weeks. While this might seem like too long to bear, it’s not a problem unless the cat is sick or injured. The cat will eventually come out when it feels safe. If it’s normally an outdoor cat, feel free to let it calm down and emerge when it needs to. Leave water and food nearby.

Keep in mind that cats will often emerge to eat and drink when you’re not looking. If the cat doesn’t know where it can locate food or water, it will stay in hiding for longer. If your cat remains tucked away for more than 2-3 hours, then place its bowls near the hiding space. This will not only help the cat relax but ensure that it doesn’t get dehydrated.

This can also help strays be more likely to return to your home after they’re done hiding. Otherwise, the cat will leave and only return if it feels like it.

If the cat is normally an indoor cat, however, then you have a more pressing issue. It will be unfamiliar with the great outdoors and be at more risk of falling victim to predators. Snakes, skunks, and even birds of prey may sneak up on the kitty. In this case, you don’t have the liberty of patience. You’ll need to get your cat out of hiding immediately and secure it indoors where it can settle down on its own.

what to do if your cat is hiding and wont come out

Where Is My Cat Hiding Outside?

To find and retrieve a cat that’s fled outdoors, you need to know where it’s hidden. Unless you saw it zoom up a tree, that can be difficult. Cats have unlimited options when it comes to hiding outside.

Since they’re very flexible, cats will fit into tiny spots or secret themselves away on the roof without issue. Here are the most likely spots to find your cat hiding:

  • On top of trees
  • Under outdoor furniture
  • In nearby bushes
  • Under decks and porches
  • On the roof
  • In the garage
  • In sheds
  • Inside abandoned cars

The good news is, most cats don’t hide far away from their home, even if it’s a new cat. If your cat isn’t hiding in the yard, you will likely find it within a radius of 3 to 5 houses from your home. Once you’ve found the cat, you can use the methods discussed above to try and lure it out.

My Cat Won’t Come Out Of Hiding

If all the tricks have failed and your cat won’t come out of hiding, then you have one distinct issue. The cat still believes the danger is present. When faced with that supposed truth, cats are more willing to hiss, bite, and scratch than emerge from their hiding spot. In this case, you will need to reassure the cat that it’s safe. That can be done by:

  • Removing strangers from the area, such as having guests or helpers go back inside
  • Limiting noises, such as by waiting to lure the cat out when cars aren’t flying by on a nearby street
  • Staying with the cat for as long as you can, especially if it’s scared by a persistent storm
  • Offering it food and water, even as you try to coax the cat out by hand
  • Removing other pets or animals, which might be threatening the cat by their very presence

If all these options fail, you may have to use force. Although not recommended, there are times where it’s more dangerous to leave the cat outside by itself, especially for long periods of time. If you are not within reach of the cat, such as when it’s up in a tree, then you will need help. You can contact the fire department, a vet, or even animal control. If the cat is within reach, such as underneath a bush or deck, then you can handle this yourself. You’ll need to:

  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve coat and gloves
  • Get a blanket
  • Try to place or toss the blanket onto the cat
  • Gently but firmly grab the cat, using the blanket to restrict its movements
  • Pull the cat out of its hiding spot while being aware that it might try to grab onto its surroundings to resist you
  • Don’t pull or jerk the cat, as you may damage its claws
  • Get the cat indoors and place it in a safe, contained environment, such as your bedroom or bathroom
  • Establish a new, safe hiding spot for the cat, such as a box or a covered table
  • Let the cat go so that it can calm down on its own

How To Lure A Sick Cat Out Of Hiding

A cat will naturally seek solitude when it’s ill, and it may even stay in hiding until it feels completely recovered. This is a natural instinct to protect itself against bigger predators. If the threats can’t find the cat when it’s weak, they definitely can’t harm it.

Unfortunately, sick cats will need your care and attention, so leaving the feline outdoors isn’t an acceptable strategy. You can use the above techniques to lure the cat out, but keep this in mind: Sick cats are some of the least likely to be tempted out of hiding.

They may not have an appetite or feel too sick to risk coming out for food. They will also feel constantly endangered, so any soothing techniques may not work. Your main options are to:

  • Use catnip: Catnip has nepetalactone, which is a chemical that can offer stress relief to felines. Sick cats will be more willing to take this bait. It can also calm down the kitty, so you can more easily capture it.
  • Gently use force: A sick cat may be too weak to resist an owner that wraps it up in a blanket and pulls it out of a hiding spot. However, be aware that sick cats are also the most volatile and likely to scratch and bite.
  • Contact a vet: Vets have many tools, medicines, and techniques for handling sick cats, especially scared or angry ones. If necessary, reach out to your local clinic and ask them to help you retrieve your cat. They can also provide treatment once the cat is taken out of hiding.
how to get a scared cat out of hiding

How To Lure A Kitten Out Of Hiding

Kittens may seem easy to lure out of hiding, but the opposite is true. In the wild, kittens know to stay tucked away in the hiding spot their mother provided. If this spot doesn’t exist or can’t be found in your home, any hiding spot will do. They will steadfastly remain there until the coast is clear or they’re forced out.

Kittens hide for comfort and security. Providing several hiding places indoors can help the little ones avoid hiding somewhere dangerous or inconvenient. If the kitten is already outside, though, you can tempt it out by:

  • Calming its environment, such as by removing loud noises or sudden lights
  • Offering strong-smelling food, especially in a trail leading out of its hiding spot
  • Creating a new, safe hiding spot outside of its existing one

In the latter case, this may include placing a cozy box up against the bush where it’s hiding, with food and water inside. The kitten will eventually move into this new space, where you can grab it.

How To Lure A Stray Cat Out Of Hiding

Luring a stray cat is difficult since these cats know to avoid humans and are capable of surviving outdoors just fine. If you want to tempt these felines, you need to offer them better resources than what they can find independently. This will include:

  • Strong-smelling food
  • A safe, quiet area
  • Catnip

Once you’ve caught the stray, it will be very willing to escape at the earliest chance it has. Because of this, it will need time to build trust and feel secure in your home. Hiding may be its first (and favorite) instinct for a while, especially outside, so offer it more food to make it purposefully stay indoors. The tastier the food, the more receptive it will be to your bait in the future, should it get outside again. 

How To Lure A New Cat Out Of Hiding

If you have a new cat in the household, it may require time in hiding to get used to its environment. It may go into hiding for 2-3 days, depending on its age. Giving it somewhere to hide indoors will help it transition without putting it in danger by compelling it to hide outside.

This starts with a bonding room. The room should be noise-free and have adequate toys, a litter box, and plenty of food and water at all times. If it still escapes into the great outdoors, you can lure the cat in with food, catnip, or a safer hiding spot, like a box with treats.

Photo of author

Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

Leave a Comment