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Why Do Cats Hide When They're Sick?

Wild Instincts May Explain Why Cats Hide When They're Sick

Cat coming out of behind bedsheets.

It's normal for cats to want their personal space and be alone from time to time. But if your cat is social and you're used to having them around most of the time, a hiding cat could be a warning sign about their health. If your cat is hanging out in odd places away from you and not wanting to come out, here's what you need to know.

Why Do Some Cat Hide When They're Sick?

While cats are domesticated, they still retain much of their wild instincts that bigger cats possess. This relation can partially explain why your cat might hide when they're not feeling well. "It has been long established that cats kept their evolutionary hunting instincts," says Joe Bolu, certified veterinarian and content writer at Meow101.

That wild instinct can make sick cats more protective of themselves. "The unspoken rule in the wild says 'hunt or become hunted,'" says Bolu. "For this reason, your furry friend will hide when he or she is sick to avoid being a victim." While your home doesn't have predators lurking around like the wild, cats will naturally isolate themselves for protection anyway. Bolu says cats may also try to hide their pain as a survival tactic, so predators don't perceive them as vulnerable.

Why Else Might Your Cat Be Hiding?

You shouldn't immediately rule out sickness as a reason for hiding, but it's possible your cat is hiding for another reason. "Cats may hide when they are stressed, scared, or sick," says Michelle Lugones, DVM from Best Friends Animal Society. They may just want some peace and quiet if they're living somewhere noisy.

Jamie Richardson, DVM, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, points out how the primal instinct to hide may kick in when cats are healthy. "Cats also enjoy hiding spaces as they feed into their natural hunting instincts — hiding spaces allow them to peer out and observe the world whilst feeling hidden and secure," she says.

What Should Owners Do if Their Cat is Hiding?

Owners need to understand why their cat is hiding by looking for other symptoms. This will help you determine whether or not a trip to the vet is needed. A sick cat may have a lack of appetite, no interest in using the litter box, aggressiveness, and even constant purring. "If your cat is in hiding and is purring, an illness or injury may be the cause," says Bolu. Purring can be a simple way for cats to soothe themselves in order to feel better.

Lugones advises pet owners not to waste any time and head over to the vet. "If a cat is hiding for more than a day, and there is no obvious reason for it, cat owners should bring their cat to their veterinarian to make sure there's not an underlying illness."

Image Source: Getty / Sabina Torres
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