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Why Do Cats Hide — And When Should You Be Worried?

Every now and then, I swear my cat vanishes into thin air. I check every room, peek under the couch, even open up cupboards. I start to fear that she might have wriggled her way out of the house, but just before panic sets in I find her innocently curled up in a corner behind a door. The last time I had to search high and low for her, I started wondering… Why do cats hide in the first place?

According to Tracie Hotchner, author of The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know (Buy on Amazon, $17.19), there are a lot of different reasons your kitty may pull a disappearing act. “Cats are fearful ‘prey’ animals,” she told Catster. “Almost any noise or new person or other animal or moving furniture can be stressful and drive them to hide.”

It’s basically the opposite reaction dogs have when they hear a doorbell and need to know who’s ringing — cats would rather retreat to where they know they’ll be safe and slowly figure out what’s going on in their own time.

John Bradshaw, a cat scientist and author of Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet (Buy on Amazon, $31.11) also explained to Catster that this instinct stems from felines’ wild ancestry. He said cats like “nooks and crannies to rest in because what they want is to basically have five sides out of six protected.” It’s also why they love cardboard boxes so much!

The Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in the UK notes that, most of the time, there’s nothing to be concerned about. However, if notice your cat hiding for longer periods of time than usual, it could be a sign they are stressed or in pain. “An injured or unwell cat will often withdraw and find a safe and enclosed space where they can remain until they feel better,” the organization explains. “So, if your cat continues to hide, you should make an appointment with your vet to rule out or diagnose any medical issues.”

It’s all about getting to know your furbaby and knowing their habits to tell whether they’re just trying to stay cozy or are in need of a checkup. Catster recommends giving their treats a shake to see if they come running (my cat passed this test with flying colors). If not, it might be time to make a vet appointment.

Otherwise, you can just make sure they have a nice secluded resting spot with some fuzzy blankets to snooze in when the feel like it.

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