Why do cats hide?
Our parents often encourage us to face our problems. Deal with things head-on, confront the issue, put it all out on the table. Don’t let things bottle up, you’ll explode! We were taught to develop productive ways to address issues, so we don’t carry enormous amounts of stress and get stuck on things that could be worked out.
We’re so lucky to have human parents, because our domesticated cats’ wild, ancestral parents seriously missed the boat on teaching their kittens this important lesson.
Hiding From Their Problems
Cats run away from their problems. Actually, they don’t just run, they hide. They have been taught to hide from any and all fears or troubles they may encounter. Whether a predator is on the hunt or an annoying friend is looking to play, cats will try to find any place to hide from the problem and avoid confrontation.
Ancestral cats adapted to the pressures of their environment by finding shelter and hiding. The smart cats knew the best way to avoid getting hunted and killed by larger, stronger animals was to run, hide, and wait until the danger passed. The not-so-smart ones never learned this method, and you can guess what happened to them (that’s right–wolves were eating feline fillet for dinner).
Thousands of years later, cats still find comfort in small, confined spaces. The instinct to hide has been passed down from their wild ancestors and it is strong. It makes nooks and crannies attractive and they can’t help exploring them. Even though your cat is rarely “prey” inside your modern home, these small spaces still provide security and comfort. They offer a refuge that protects them while they sleep, reduces stress, and fosters tranquility.
Another reason cats find happiness in small spaces is their pursuit of warmth. The thermoneutral, or comfort, zone for a domesticated cat is typically between 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a whopping twenty degrees higher than ours. Our HVAC units are hardly ever set this high, so your cat is actually chronically less-than-comfortable while residing in your home. This is why you can find them nuzzled up in small spaces that contain their body heat like shoe boxes, the tiny bathroom sink, or even sitting on the air vents when the heat is on. They are always in search for ways to feel a little warmer.
Tiny nooks and crannies provide safety, comfort, and warmth for your domesticated cat. This is why you can often find them exploring boxes, laundry hampers, suitcases, cupboards, and other enclosed objects you didn’t realize your cat fit! The warmer, cozier, and more secluded it is, the more your cat is drawn to it. They are not the best at recognizing their own size, which causes them to squeeze their way into the tiniest of crevices, and then struggle to maneuver themselves free.
The smaller the space, the less likely it is for predators to capture them and eat them for breakfast. Areas where only the cat’s eyesight is visible to the outside world are the most appealing, as that is their only giveaway, and if they have been spotted, they will know right away. Also, a smaller space means a warmer hangout. This is why your cat is usually found stuck in a tiny cereal box or struggling to escape the inside of the flower pot that he dove head first into.
Give Your Cat Safe Spaces
Support your cat’s natural behaviors and provide him with safe and easy-to-maneuver crevices to explore. Boxes, shoe boxes, backpacks, and other items that are big enough for your cat to safely curl up in. It would be smart to monitor the smaller nooks in your home to prevent your cat from getting any serious injury: make sure to put a sturdy grate in front of any air vents, to dispose of any cans or empty cups that they can get their heads stuck in and prevent healthy breathing, and keep tabs on any unsafe, small spaces that your cat may find amusing. Your cat will be interested in getting nuzzled into any size of a space, but the last thing you want is for curiosity to actually kill the cat.
You Don’t Own Me
Cats have not been domesticated for as long as dogs. They do not realize that they are being taken care of by an owner. They still might believe that your home is their territory, hunting ground, and habitat. They are always on the lookout for places to hide and run away from any threats they come across (real or perceived).
So if you find yourself calling your cat’s name and do not hear the response of paws pitter-pattering on your floor, go into your closet and search through your empty shoe boxes—instead of an old pair of chucks, you may find your fluffy little feline friend meowing up at you.