Hiding Behavior (Cats)

Cats normally take a while to adjust to a new environment. If you have recently acquired your cat, you should be aware that acclimation can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months. Cats are highly variable in temperament, and also in their levels of socialization. Here are some suggestions on how to help a cat that is hiding:

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do start them off in a smaller room. If you haven’t done this, and you are experiencing difficulties, move your cat into a small room and “start over.”
  • Do have a safe litter box and supply of food and water easily accessible to them. If your cat is scared to go to the litter box, they may start relieving themselves in what they consider much safer spots, leading to the unwanted behavior of inappropriate elimination. If they are scared to get to their food bowl, they may not eat and get sick by starving themself.
  • Do feed them on a regular schedule. Doing so will help your cat realize that good things come from you.
  • Do not push yourself on the cat. Often in an eagerness to bond with their new pet, guardians make the mistake of going too fast—wanting to pet and cuddle a cat that is hiding. Cats do not get reassurance from this, and they may even fear you. Give your cat time to adjust—you won’t regret it in the long run. Remember, patience is the key to building a good relationship. Your cat needs time to build trust in you.
  • Do not try to reach for a hidden cat or grabbing them to pull them out of a hiding spot, a fearful cat that is hiding and feels threatened may become aggressive when feeling cornered. Therefore, always use food or toys to entice them to be curious and engage with the environment and you. Environmental enrichment can help a fearful hiding cat to become curious and outgoing over time.

Once your cat begins to feel more comfortable, you will notice them coming out of hiding more, engaging with you, vocalizing and perhaps coming to you when you enter the room. It is wise to keep them in the smaller room for a little while longer, until they show interest in exploring past the door. If possible, allow them to gradually expand their territory, by closing off other rooms at first. At any point in this process, if you feel they are overwhelmed, you can backtrack and put the cat back in their “safe” room again. It takes time, patience, and sensitivity to help a shy cat adjust to a new home, but it will be worth the effort when you see a happy cat that knows where they belong and loves their environment and their human.

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