How To Coax A Cat Out of Hiding


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Jenny Eales BVSc (Hons)

"Here Puss, Puss, Puss! Come out, come out wherever you are!"

Has that been you lately? Frustratingly, cats are masters of hiding! They love to be in small cosy spaces where they can observe their world and, being such independent souls, will totally ignore you calling them until they are ready to come out!

Why Is Your Cat Hiding?

It can be quite distressing when you can't find your cat. Sometimes they are just in a nice cosy spot and don't want to come out but there are times when they are hiding for other reasons such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Illness
  • New environments or changes to the environment
  • Pregnant and about to give birth

It is completely normal for cats to pass gas occasionally, and since it is generally silent and odourless, it goes unnoticed. However, excessive or malodorous gas usually indicates an underlying issue and is not considered normal. Excessive flatulence is fortunately much less common in cats than it is in dogs, but still poses a problem for some kitties (and those who have to live with them!).

Hiding Due to Anxiety

When a cat is feeling anxious, they may hide in order to feel safe and secure. Hiding gives them a sense of control over their environment. This is a natural defence mechanism that cats use in the wild to avoid predators or threats. New environments, changes to the environment, new people or new pets, lots of noise, or strange smells can all make cats anxious. If your cat is hiding due to anxiety there are ways to help them feel less anxious and hopefully stop them from hiding. It is important to try and identify the cause of their anxiety so you can address it. If the cause is loud noises for example, you can try to create a quiet, calm environment for them. If it is due to changes in their environment, you can try to gradually introduce them to the changes.

There are a number of supplements containing anxiety relieving ingredients, such as casein and L-tryptophan that you can try to help relax your kitty. Casein is a protein found in milk and is known for its calming effect on newborns. L-tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and decreases anxiety. Serotonin is known as 'the happy hormone'. Feliway is a product containing a man-made version of the pheromone that cats release when they are feeling happy or content, and it can be a great aid to decreasing anxiety in cats.

Hiding due to illness

Some cats will hide if they are in pain, injured or unwell. In the wild, cats would hide from predators when they were sick so this is instinctive. If your cat suddenly starts hiding and there have been no changes to their environment or other reasons for them to hide, it is a good idea to get them checked by your veterinarian.

Hiding due to environmental changes

If you have moved to a new house or had some major changes at home (a new baby, a new person or a new pet for example) your cat may go into hiding to try and feel safe to avoid the changes.

To help your cat come to terms with a new environment, introduce them to it slowly. If you have moved into a new house, only allow your cat to be in a small area to start with and gradually increase the area they have access to as they get used to it. Using a pheromone such as Feliway in their environment is a great way to make them feel calm and relaxed.

If you have a new person or pet at home, introduce them to your cat slowly, making sure they are calm around your cat.

Pregnant cat approaching due date hiding

Pregnant cats may hide as they are trying to find a safe and secure place to give birth. You can help prevent this by providing several comfy boxes or nests for her and placing them in different areas around the house so she has a few areas to choose from. Choose places that are safe, private, quiet and warm. Show your cat where they are and hopefully she will choose one of them to give birth in rather than hiding somewhere else!

For more information on pregnant cats, read our Pregnant Cat Guide.

Top products to reduce anxiety in cats

Finding Your Cat

It's all well and good knowing why your cat is hiding, but where are they? Cats can find some great hidey holes to hang out in. Here are some ideas for where to search for your missing kitty.

Likely places indoor cats may hide:

  • Under beds
  • Behind or under furniture
  • Up high. Look on top of wardrobes and refrigerators etc.
  • In cupboards/cabinets
  • In warm spaces/sunny spots
  • In washing machines or dryers (close doors and always check these before using as it is extremely dangerous if a cat is in one when it is in use!)
  • In baskets or boxes
  • In any cosy nooks

If outdoors they may hide:

  • In garages, sheds or outbuildings
  • Under decks or verandahs
  • In bushy plants
  • Under cars or vehicles or under their bonnets or wheel arches

GPS trackers are a great way to locate your cat if it goes outside! Some good examples are:

Coaxing Them Out

Once you have located your cat, how do you get them to come out?

1. Stay Calm!

Your cat can sense when you are anxious or stressed, which can make them more stressed and reluctant to come out. Take a deep breath and try to stay as calm and relaxed as you can.

2. Lure them out.

You can try to lure them out with food or toys. If your cat has a favourite treat or toy, put it near the place they are hiding to try to get them to come out. Make sure to use a calm and reassuring voice. Speak in a soft soothing tone, and avoid making any sudden movements or loud noises that may scare your cat.

Top treats and toys for cats

3. Give it time.

Don't despair if your cat doesn't come out straight away. Cats are independant souls, and may take a while to come. Make them a safe and comfortable area where you are trying to lure them out. Provide a cosy bed or blanket, some food and water and their favourite toy and give them some time to emerge. Cats are creatures of habit and may take some time to adjust to a new environment or situation. Provide a safe comfortable environment as described above and keep checking on your cat. Be patient and persistent. Eventually they will come out of hiding.

Further reading

How to calm an anxious pet

Stress and anxiety in cats

Reducing stress in multi-cat households

How to Catify your home

Your guide to using Feliway

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