“Mr Bigglesworth? Mr Bigglesworth! Mr Bigglesworth, where in heaven’s name are you?” Sound familiar? Okay, so maybe your cat is named Munchkin or Felix or Sam. But the bewilderment at how your kitten can disappear after turning away for five seconds is always the same. Why do our kittens like to hide so much?
Nature versus nurture
One hypothesis put forward is that hiding behavior is a habit cats retain from their wild days. As animals that are relatively low on the food chain, our feline friends would need protection from other predators. They would defend themselves by hiding in a den where they had a clear view of both predators and prey. When you first bring your kitten home, everything is strange and part of the unknown. So, it’s natural for them to want to hide to protect themselves. This need for fortification also explains why studies have shown that cats and kittens who have a safe hiding spot have significantly lower stress levels.
Is that the only reason kittens like to hide?
Cats and kittens hide when they are fearful or get a fright so that they can feel safe and secure, but this is not the only reason. Cats have obviously read all the self-help books out there and realize the absolute necessity for regular “me-time” naps. What better way to make sure you’re not disturbed (not to mention warm) than to find refuge in a small, cozy, dark space, closed off from the surrounding hustle and bustle.
In addition to hiding when they are frightened or need a snooze, kittens (and cats in general) are curious! They are fascinated by new things that move or squeak or crackle. And even more so when things look like they would make a great spot for the purr-fect siesta.
But where do kittens hide!?
Where there’s cover, there’s a way. That is pretty much the motto of any cat set on exploring the world of sleeping places. If you can’t find Mr Bojangles, the kitten explorer, here are some popular places where kittens like to hide from their anxious parents:
- Any cardboard boxes (and for kittens, a shoe box would be heaven)
- Inside and ON TOP OF cupboards
- Drawers (even those that look like a kitten wouldn’t be able to get into)
- Under the couch or bed
- INSIDE the couch – yes, it happens
- BEHIND the books on a bookshelf
- Your laundry basket – probably the one that contains your clean clothes
- Behind a curtain, or even, on top of it!
- Inside a potted plant (the soil is nice and warm and the foliage provides protection from prying eyes)
How do I get my kitten to come out of hiding?
If you have looked and looked and you still can’t find her, she may very well have outfoxed you and become even more inventive and adventurous with her hiding space. You don’t have to start panicking right away. First try putting food in her bowl or opening up a can of her favorite treat. Playing with her prized toy should also catch her attention. Important note: If you can see where your kitten is, don’t try to pull her out. She is there because she feels safe. If you wrench her out of her cocoon of safety, you could traumatize her and damage the bond between you. If you want her to come out, try some of the tips above. And be patient.
Cause for concern
Your kitten is more than likely to come out eventually, with or without your bribes. A girl’s got to eat, right? But if your kitten misses a meal or doesn’t come out of hiding for an extended period of time, she could be ill. Seek medical advice sooner rather than later.
Dangerous hiding places
Some of the places where our kittens like to hide can actually be hazardous and need to be avoided. You can do this by making them inaccessible where possible.
- Inside furniture. You have to be very careful that you check your furniture properly before sitting down, or you could seriously injure your kitten.
- In an empty washing machine or dryer. Either keep the door closed at all times or make sure you look inside before putting any laundry in.
- Under a car (or even inside the engine bay!). Cars are warm and quiet when not in use. A good idea is to make some kind of noise before starting your car – blow the horn or bang on the hood, for instance.
- In the garage. The average garage is full of boxes, containers, small dark spaces and many more tempting hiding spots. Unfortunately, it is also full of dangerous equipment, deadly chemicals and sharp objects. A common item in any garage is antifreeze, which tastes sweet to cats but is deadly. Try keeping the door to the garage closed, as well as any windows.
How to make safe hiding spots for your kitten to hide in
If you would like to encourage your kitten to hide in more suitable places, there are a few things you can do to make a safe snooze spot for your kitten. All you have to do is think like a cat!
- Dark and quiet. What we all need when we want to sleep, especially if sleeping for 12 to 16 hours a day. Create a hide-out for your kitten. You can buy a cat scratch post with a kitty condo. Or you can line a normal cardboard box with some comfy blankets, seal one end and cut a hole just big enough for your kitty to get through. The small hole will keep light to a minimum and the box will dampen any sound.
- A high hidey hole. Often kittens will feel more secure above the ground, with a bird’s eye-view of their surroundings. If you can elevate their sleeping place, even just a little, it will make them feel safer when confronted with something unfamiliar.
- Warm and snuggly. Place a hidey hole for your kitten in a sunny spot or pad the box or bed with a soft, warm blanket. Be careful not to put it too close to a heater that it will burn or melt your kitten’s enclosure.
Your kitten should feel safe at all times and giving her various safe options to hide, sleep, explore or play in should be your first priority. And who knows? Maybe a game of hide-and-seek between you and your feline companion could become a bonding experience!