August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Hiding behavior can be a normal in cats and give them a sense of security. Cats can hide to rest, to enjoy their favorite spot, or if they are scared. If you have a new cat, be aware that it can take anywhere between a few hours to a few months to adjust to a new environment as cats are highly variable in temperament, and in their levels of socialization. If your cat is hiding more than 1 or 2 hours per day, then here are some suggestions on how to help your cat come out more and engage:

Start your cat off in a smaller room with accessible hiding spaces such as a cat bed or a chair covered with a blanket or a cat bed in a book shelf.

Keep the litterbox and a supply of food and water easily accessible to them. If your cat is too 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 pooping and peeing outside the litter box. If they are scared to get to their food bowl, they may not eat and get sick by starving themselves.

Feed your cat on a regular schedule. Doing so will help them realize that good things come from you.

Never force interactions with your cat. Guardians often too eager to bond with their new pet, such as wanting to pet and cuddle a cat that is hiding. Most cats are not reassured by this, and 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.

Use food or toys to entice your cat 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. 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 them back in their "safe" room again.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.