When cats are scared, it is instinctive for them to hide.
This could be under your couch or another item of furniture. If they are an outdoor cat, they might hide outside and not come home. Doing so removes them from the threatening situation and gives them a chance to calm down.
Yet when your cat hides for a long time it can be worrying. For one, you want your cat to be happy and healthy. Secondly, if it’s constantly hiding, you’ll never see your cat! So, how long will a scared cat hide? And how can you entice your cat to come out of hiding?
The answers to both of these questions are in this article. Plus, I also run through specific situations that might have scared your cat in the first place. Felines are finicky creatures, and the smallest thing can throw them off. Learn to avoid these things and your cat will live a much happier life.
How Long Will a Scared Cat Hide?
A scared cat will hide for as long as it needs to feel safe again.
This will happen either when (1) the danger is removed from their environment or (2) the cat gets used to the situation and feels more comfortable. The time this takes will depend hugely on the type of scare they’ve had.
Here are some examples of different types of scares and how long a cat will hide:
- Loud Noises: Short-lived scared such as a loud noise will cause cats to become lightly startled. Examples could include a party, fireworks, or nearby construction work. They may hide for up to 1 hour until they feel calm again and the noise has stopped.
- New People: More long-lived stressful situations could see your cat hiding for as long as 5 hours. Examples could include there being a new person in your household. They’ll usually come out of hiding once the person has left or they realize they aren’t a threat.
- New Animals: Getting another pet can cause even more stress for your cat. I saw my cat bullying my other cat when I first brought my kitten home. Your old cat or kitten might hide for a day, but it could take a few weeks for them to fully adjust to each other.
- Moving Home: Moving home is one of the most extreme scares a cat can face as their entire environment is new. Cats that have just moved might hide for 1-2 days until they become more accustomed to their new home and the surrounding environment.
- Adopting a Stray: Adopting a stray cat can also trigger a lot of fear similar to moving home. Stray cats aren’t even used to a domestic environment, and so might hide for up to 7 days. They will slowly adjust to their new environment and hide less.
If your cat does hide for a longer time, try not to worry about it. Your cat will come back out of hiding when the time is right. You don’t want to force them out any sooner – it could only scare them more and make them more inclined to hide for longer.
Where is My Scared Cat Hiding?
Cats will hide all over the place! If the threatening situation is outside your home, they’ll usually find a private spot in your house. For example, they might curl up under your couch. They will choose a place that other people and animals cannot get to. It will usually be dark, cozy, and warm. In other cases, cats will hide in elevated areas such as the top of a bookcase.
In other instances, a scared cat might hide outside the home. This is common if you and your cat have just moved house. They won’t like their new environment and run away and hide in an attempt to escape it. Most of the time, cats won’t be hiding far from home. Even if they do, cats have a homing instinct and will be able to figure out how to get back.
Examples of places your cat could be hiding outside include:
- Up a tree or in bushes
- On the roof of a building
- In your neighbors’ sheds or garages
- Under decks and porches
If your cat is hiding outside, make sure you leave fresh food and water outside for it to eat. They might only eat and drink when you aren’t looking, but it can help ensure they return home once they are finished hiding. Cats can smell their way home, but they can also smell food! This will also help ensure they are getting their essentials even while they’re hiding.
The only time when you need to worry about your cat hiding is if you have an indoor cat hiding outside. Unlike outdoor cats, indoor cats will not be used to the outside world. For this reason, they are more likely to have accidents such as road traffic accidents or conflicts with other animals. In this case, it is a good idea to hunt down where your cat is hiding and take them back home.
How to Get a Scared Cat Out of Hiding?
You should never force your cat out of hiding.
The only situation where this is recommended is if your indoor cat is hiding outside. In this case, locate your cat and take it home. It will likely find a new hiding place within your house to hide before relaxing, but allow this to happen. Your kitty obviously still needs a little time to calm down and recover but can do this in the safety of their home.
For all other situations, it is best to leave your cat in peace. However, you can encourage a cat out of hiding by following these tips:
- Determine what is scaring your cat and eliminate the threat. Most cats won’t come out of hiding until the threat has been removed for good. If you can pinpoint and remove the stressor early on, your cat will hide for less time.
- If the threat cannot be removed, be sure to avoid other stressors. With only one thing to worry about, your cat will relax again more quickly. You can also try to block the threat out or use other calming methods, like pheromone diffusers.
- Ensure your cat has an escape route. Cats will often run and hide when they are threatened and feel like they are unable to escape from the threat. For cats, the best escape route is vertical. Try getting some cat wall shelves or a tall cat tree. You might find your cat comes out of hiding and takes refuge here instead.
- Use food and treats to coax your cat out from its hiding place. You can place the food a few feet away from their hiding place and then walk away. Most cats won’t be able to resist the temptation of food nearby and will come out of hiding, even if just for a few minutes.
- Try to encourage your cat to play with you. Hunting is instinctive for cats, and playing mimics this behavior. Get your cat’s favorite toy and move it back and forth in front of their hiding spot. Their instincts will likely take over and your cat will come out of hiding.
- Another thing that some cats cannot resist is catnip. If you know your cat loves catnip and responds well, why not get a catnip mouse or toy? Leave this a few feet from this hiding space and hope they take the bait! Plus, this will have a calming effect and could help your cat feel more relaxed.
How to Prevent My Cat Hiding in the Future?
It is worthwhile preventing your cat from hiding again in the future. This means you’ll never be faced with these issues or worries again!
The main reason cats seek solitude is due to fear. So, you can stop them from hiding by… well, stopping them from getting scared in the first place! Create a calming home environment and you should find your kitty hides far less frequently. Here are just some tips you can try to make a safe environment your cat will love:
- Provide Privacy: Cats are independent creatures and value their privacy. If they have a space that is solely theirs, they can retreat here when they feel stressed. This can prevent cats from running away or going into hiding. Cat shelves and cat towers work well as they are elevated away from other animals and receive low footfall. Even cardboard boxes are a good low-budget solution that cats seem to love!
- Remove Stressors: Removing stressors is important when luring a cat out of hiding. However, you also need to keep these stressors at bay once they venture out. All cats will have their own triggers, much like humans all have different fears. Pay attention to your kitty and see what causes them to hide and what they are unbothered by. Anything that triggers high stress should be removed permanently where possible.
- Make Gradual Changes: Most of the time, cats are scared because of a sudden change in their environment. But some change is inevitable! Any changes that you do need to make should be made gradually. For example, when swapping to a new food, mix a little with their old food and gradually increase the amount. Even a big change such as moving home can be made easier by keeping food, litter, and their usual routine consistent.
- Be Patient: In some cases, there is nothing you can do to prevent your cat from hiding. This particularly applies to if you have adopted a stray, have moved home, or have a new cat. All you can do is wait for your cat to adjust to its new environment. They need to get used to the new sights, smells, and sounds. Once they do – and they will eventually – they’ll come out of hiding all by themselves.
Should I Worry When My Cat Hides?
In most cases, a cat hiding is nothing to worry about. Hiding is such a normal behavior for felines that they fall back on when feeling threatened. It is their coping mechanism. All you should do is remove the threat where possible and try to make a calming environment.
However, if your cat is hiding and acting weird there is a possibility they are sick or injured. Cats are known to mask feelings of pain from their owners and other animals. This is again a survival method – they are weak when sick and usually hide until they are fully recovered. Unfortunately, this is where hiding becomes a problem.
Sick and injured cats need to come out of hiding so that they can get the help and treatment they need. Leaving your cat in hiding if they are ill could be extremely dangerous. Their condition could deteriorate and, depending on what is wrong, could become life-threatening. As such, try coaxing your cat out from its hiding spot using the methods above if you think it is sick.
If this doesn’t work, speak to your veterinarian. They will be able to offer advice based on any other symptoms you have noticed. When they think something could be wrong, they may suggest you force your cat out of hiding so your cat can receive medical attention. Doing so could hurt a sick or injured cat though, so don’t make any decisions without your vet.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
So, how long will a scared cat hide? This all depends on how scared your cat is! They will usually hide until the threat has gone. Or, in situations where the change is irreversible, they will hide until they have adapted to their new situation.
Whenever your cat hides, leave them to it – no matter how long they hide for! Forcing them out can only make them more stressed. They will come back on their own accord. You can gently encourage them out of hiding, but at the end of the day, they’ll leave when they’re ready.
The only exception is if you have an indoor cat that is hiding outside or if you think your cat is sick. In the former situation, bring your cat back to the safety of your home. If you think your cat is sick or injured, and seek advice from your vet so they can get the help they need.
John Dimon says
I am a senior in an assisted living facility by myself in a large studio apartment. It is usually very quiet in my apartment. I am a long time experienced cat owner. Yes, my cat is inside only. I knew when I adopted this 7 year old spayed female she was shy. So yes after about having her for three weeks she hides all day and into the night until 9 p.m when she comes out at night only. I have wet food out for her abouit an hor before she comes out which she eats. She does not come out the the morning even if food is out. After she eats at night sometimes I am able to pet her.I do not know what if any stressors in the daytime cold be bothering her if any.