Don't worry if your new kitten won't come out of hiding; this behavior can be a coping mechanism for a scared or anxious pet. Whether she's hiding under the bed, behind the couch, or somewhere else in your home, understanding the reasons for the hiding can help you find the best way to comfort and ressure your furry friend.
Coping With a Kitten Who Won't Come Out of Hiding
Although you may feel like you're the only feline enthusiast who has ever faced this problem, you really aren't alone. Most people have been through this same scenario when dealing with a kitten. As soon as you turn your back, kitty has split to parts unknown, and you probably won't see her for days.
Admittedly, the situation can leave you feeling frustrated and a bit like a failure, but your kitten's behavior actually has less to do with your personal appeal than you may realize. Let's take a closer look at the situation from a couple of different perspectives.
Dealing With a New House Pet
Bringing home a new kitten can be a wonderful experience, especially as you and your new charge become better acquainted. However, every kitten's personality is unique, and you can never predict how an individual is going to react to her new surroundings.
Some kittens are quite bold and will begin to claim your house as their territory from the moment they step in the door. This might even include introducing themselves to your other resident pets in a less than gentle way. On the other hand, some kittens are very wary when entering new territory, and even more so when there are already other pets in residence.
In situations like these, many new kittens will immediately search for small, out-of-the-way nooks to hide. Unfortunately, unless you happen to see your pet dart into her chosen hidey-hole, you may have no idea where she has gone. You may also not see her again for days, but rest assured that given enough time and patience, she will eventually emerge in your presence.
Here are a few tips to follow anytime you bring a new kitten home.
- Before you do anything else, introduce your kitten to the location of her litter box and food dishes. This way if your kitten does happen to pull a vanishing act, she'll know where to go to take care of business after everyone has gone to bed.
- If possible, locate these items in a small room you can confine your kitten to for the first couple of days. This will give her time to become acclimated in a quiet environment as she becomes used to your household's typical noise levels. This also helps litter box training to get off to a good start.
- If your kitten does hide away in your home, don't try to drag her out of hiding. This may actually upset her more than necessary, and she will likely disappear again at the very next opportunity.
- Instead, go about your business, talking calmly to yourself as you do. This will give your kitten a chance to become used to your voice as well as your "vibe."
- Watch for signs that your kitten has come out when no one is around. You might find the litter box has been used or that the levels in the food bowls are lower than they were.
If you provide a calm and non-threatening environment, your kitten should gradually begin to come out of hiding for more frequently and for longer periods, eventually taking her place in the household hierarchy.
If She Continues to Hide
You've been patient and done everything correctly, and yet the kitten still hides away. What's to be done? Quite a lot as it happens. The key to success is building the cat's confidence and using her natural sense of curiosity to distract her out of hiding. The Cats Protection League make some suggestions about how to do this:
- Spend time in her company: Yes, you do that already, but do you do this lying on the floor? People are giants to cats and kittens, so make yourself less threatening by lying on the floor. This makes you less imposing for her to investigate.
- Don't look directly at her: A direct stare is a challenge to a fight. Much as you are besotted with the new addition, avoid staring. Instead, turn your head to one side and watch from the corner of your eye.
- Make yourself super irresistible: Find the tastiest, scrummiest, most irresistible cat treats you can find. Whilst lying on the floor, head averted, toss a treat or two close to the cat. Now close your eyes and have a nap. The idea is not to react in any way if she ventures out to snag the treat. This will build her confidence. As she grows bolder and is emerging more often, gradually reduce the distance you toss the treat. Eventually, you should be able to rest a treat in your palm and have her take it.
- Use scent handshakes: For those times you can't spend time with her, pop an item of your clothing in her bed or hide. This helps her get used to your scent and accept you.
- Up the ante with pheromones: Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone, which sends out a scent message telling the cat she is safe. Spritz your hands and clothes with Feliway spray, to make yourself the cat whisperer, and use a plug-in Feliway diffuser near her bed.
- In normal life, don't tiptoe around her. This unwittingly sends out alarm messages to the cat. Instead, move around as normal.
Know that some cats require an endless supply of patience. Some cats are so anxious or fearful that it takes weeks, months, or years to win them over... but you will get there, eventually.
The Cat That Starts Hiding
If your normally sociable cat starts to hide, the first thing to do is ask yourself "Why?" Chances are, she feels threatened, frightened or anxious, and is obeying her natural instinct to go to ground. Instead of forcing her out of hiding, be a detective and seek clues as to what's changed in her world. It might be a stray has intruded her space, or you have remodeling work going on, construction outside, or she doesn't like the new dog.
Animal Planet suggests once you've identified the cause, think about how best to correct it. This may take lateral thinking, such as confining the cat to one room with full en suite facilities, until the building work is finished. However, one thing's for sure: Never force her out of hiding. In fact, the opposite is true. Try providing her with extra hiding places (empty cardboard boxes work well) in each room. Then she will be more likely to venture out again, knowing she's never far from safety.
Cultivating a Stray Cat
Cultivating a stray cat or feral cat is usually more difficult than making friends with a kitten that is already used to living with people. If you happen to come across a stray holed up under your porch, in your bushes or taking up residence in your garage, it's very important that you don't try to pull the animal from her hiding place. This is only likely to make her fear you more. It's more productive to win the kitten's trust in stages until you can convince her that you only have the best of intentions for her.
- Be sure to speak softly to her as you do so, and every time you pass her location.
- Eventually, you should be able to remain within her sight when she comes to the dishes.
- Try to decrease your distance just a little each day until you are within arm's reach of the kitten when she dines.
- When you are within this range, begin bringing an especially tempting treat such as a sardine. If you're lucky, you may be able to coax the kitten a little closer, even if you have to drop the treat on the ground to convince her to take it.
- If all goes as planned, the kitten will eventually be willing to take the treat from your hand. If you are slow and gentle, you may be able to touch the kitten briefly at this point.
- Continue on this path until the kitten allows you to pet her freely. Once you can, the kitten will likely stop hiding and seek out your company of her own free will.
Time and Patience
It is a cat's natural instinct to hide when anxious. However, there are no short cuts, and forcing her to leave a sanctuary will only traumatize her. Follow the tips above, be patient, and eventually, you will win her confidence. The end result is a beautiful relationship with your fur-friend based on mutual trust and understanding: A wonderful thing which is worth waiting for.