If you’ve owned both dogs and cats—or even if you’ve simply read a few Garfield comic strips—you know these pets live very different daily lives.
Dogs are outgoing, needy, friendly, and excitable. You always know where they are because most of the time they’re bugging you for attention, play, or food.
Cats can behave similarly. Not every feline plays to the stereotype of being aloof or standoffish, but they’re certainly more independent than their canine counterparts. As such, you might not always know where your cat is. Presumably, he or she is fine; just wasting away the day in a comfortable spot away from the hubbub of your house. We’ll walk you through some of your cat’s common hiding spots so you know where to look.
Why Do Cats Hide?
Hiding behavior in cats is usually normal and mostly harmless, says Marci Koski, a certified feline behaviorist.
“Cats are both predators and prey in the wild,” she says. “They are instinctively driven to hide when they are hunting prey and avoiding being prey for other predators.”
Certified cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson adds, “Hiding makes them feel like they’ve got their back covered and they’re safe. It’s a self-preserving behavior for when something unfamiliar is going on around them.”
On the other hand, Johnson also says cats tend to hide when they’re sick, and they might not hide in their usual favorite places. “When they don’t feel well, they’ll try to remove themselves from their normal environment. They’ll go to weird places. It’s almost as if they’re trying to not alert other members of the household of their illness.”
Cat owners can also run into problems when appealing hiding places are possible threats to their cats’ safety. Continue reading for seven of the most common hiding places for cats and what you should do if you find your cat hiding there.
Where Do Cats Hide?
In Your Closet
When many cats are frightened, they tend to retreat to the master bedroom.
“It’s scent-heavy and often smells a lot like the owner,” Johnson says.
The closet is appealing because it’s dark, and because there are lots of soft articles of clothing—plus an option to climb up high: “Some cats like to climb and scope things out from above,” said Johnson.
Behind a Dresser
On the other hand, Johnson says, some cats tend to be bottom dwellers.
“They aren’t capable of jumping or they just don’t like height,” she said.
If your dresser is pulled away from the wall slightly, it might be an appealing hiding place for your cat. Some cats will even push a drawer in a dresser out from behind and climb in, but be careful yours doesn’t get stuck there. Koski recommends deterring your cat with scents like citrus, peppermint, and cinnamon if you prefer to keep him or her out of this space.
The major hiding spot in your bedroom is under the bed itself. You might also find cats hiding under couches or chairs when they’re frightened. Both Koski and Johnson agree this is a fairly benign hiding place, unless you’re talking about a piece of furniture like a recliner or a couch with a pull-out bed. Cats should be dissuaded from exploring the nooks and crannies under such areas because of all the moving parts that can injure them.
Near the Furnace or Heater
One other common thread in cat hiding places is the animal’s desire to seek warmth. This is something owners will commonly see during the winter, but it’s definitely not exclusive to December, January, and February in northern states.
One of your home’s warmest spots is the furnace, which is obviously an area fraught with danger for your cat. Keep it inaccessible by closing the basement or furnace room door at all times. If that’s not possible for whatever reason, use a gate that you know your cat can’t jump.
On the off chance that your cat gets in there, it’s important to find ways to strongly dissuade him from wanting to go in there again. However, as Koski explains, there’s some risk in the way you associate negative consequences with a hiding place.
“To deter cats, do not startle them out of a hiding spot, yell at them, or squirt them with water,” she says. “This can only create fear and damage your relationship with the cat.”
Instead, use the scents mentioned earlier, like peppermint and citrus, which might make the area unpleasant. Koski also says you can place a vinyl carpet runner in the area with the nubs pointed up. “They’ll find it very uncomfortable to walk on.”
Near the Dryer
Another warm spot, but this one has the added bonus of being full of soft, cuddly sheets, towels, and items of clothing. But like the furnace, the dryer can be a dangerous hiding place for obvious reasons (you turn it on without realizing the cat snuck in there) and less obvious ones (electrocution).
If you can keep this appliance off-limits, great. If not, Johnson mentions putting a penny inside an aluminum soda can and leaving it in the dryer when you’re not using it.
“It’ll scare them when they jump in,” she says, “but that scare will be associated with the appliance and not you.”
A great alternative: Get your cat a heated bed. Koski says you can purchase pet beds that start to warm up whenever your cat steps on it. Throw in a sheet or towel, and it’s unquestionably warmer, more comfortable, and safer than the dryer.
Inside Cardboard Boxes
This is another great alternative to the furnace or the dryer, and the great part is that boxes already naturally attract cats because cardboard insulates.
“Cardboard boxes help them regulate body temperature without expending energy,” Johnson says. “It’s a very common hiding place and something you can encourage your cat to spend time in regularly without much work.”
“Cardboard boxes are great places for cats to hide,” she says. “You can use them as alternatives to hiding spots you don’t want your cats to be in by decking them out with familiar bedding, treats, catnip, or toys.”
Along a Marble or Tile Floor
Johnson notes that this is a popular hiding place for cats that have fallen ill. “When they’ve got a fever or they’re nauseous or they’re close to dying, cats will seek cool rather than warmth.” If they’re lying in the corner on a cooler floor, this could be a sign that your cat needs to be examined by a vet.
Koski and Johnson agree that you should also consult your vet if hiding behavior is new or if it has suddenly and significantly increased.
“Any change in the regular behavior of your cat, including the desire to hide—or if hiding interferes with daily activity that your cat needs to do, including eating, drinking, and using the bathroom—could be a cause for concern,” Koski says.
John Gilpatrick is a freelance writer who thinks bunnies make the best pets.