Cat hiding under a bed

Your cat is hiding under your bed?

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Why does my cat like to hide under my bed?

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the

Cats love to feel safe in enclosed spaces. They may hide under your bed, on top of the wardrobe, or any favourite, small area.

Is it always a good sign? We know that cats will hide under the bed when they feel agitated or threatened. However, there is more to this behaviour than meets the eye.
Here, we take a look at probable reasons for your cat’s choice of hiding place, and ask whether or not it is something an owner should be concerned about. Very often it is due to a cat’s natural instinct to seek warmth and safety, but it could also be a sign of her feeling agitated. A closer look at your cat’s behaviour is never a bad thing.

Why does your cat like to hide under your bed?

Cats have always wanted to find a place to sleep that is safe and protected. It’s completely natural! Most domesticated cats evolved from Middle Eastern wild cats which share the same ancestry as lions, tigers and cheetahs. Wild cats will always head for a place that is protected from predators both on the ground and in the air. Thus, a small cave carved in vegetation or rocks is a wild cat’s preferred place to sleep.

Domestic cats apply same instinct to the homes they share with us. The space beneath a bed is the ideal place for a cat to hide because it offers the following four major components of feline wellness:

  • Anxiety
  • Comfort
  • Illness
  • Safety
  • Sleeping/resting

Your cat hides under the bed for: Comfort

Most cats will sleep between 15 and 20 hours in a 24 hour period. With such a long time asleep, an important element of cat comfort is the absence of risk; attacks from larger predators or other more dominant cats are a very real possibility even for domestic cats. Hiding under the bed (or other piece of furniture) allows the cat to feel comfortable and safe.

Your cat hides under the bed for: Safety

In a similar vein to feeling comfortable, a cat wants to feel safe. It perceives things like loud and sudden noises or raised voices as dangers. A cat’s acute hearing amplifies these sounds, which will cause the animal to feel distressed at times. Hiding under a bed is your cat’s natural way to feel more secure and out of harm’s reach.

Cats that are pregnant or are nursing a litter may be especially nervous and less tolerant of loud noises. A pregnant cat may well hide more. Be sure to keep the noise to a minimum when you are around nursing queen cats. Don’t let anyone disturb her, or the litter. Yes, kittens are cute but an upset and stressed mother cat is not good for them, or for the cat herself. Let her decide when it’s time for you to meet her babies, and never force her - she may become aggressive.

Your cat hides under the bed due to: Illness

Most animals have a tendency to hide when they do not feel well. This is another legacy of the wild cat. A sick animal in the wild will be vulnerable to attack from predators or other animals (a pack of wolves will turn on a sick member and chase it away). Thus, dogs and cats are loathed to show us (their fellow animals) that they are in some way weak or feeble.

A cat may hide under the bed or somewhere else dark and quiet if it feels unwell or is injured. In a circumstance such as this you should be vigilant of your cat’s behaviour and if necessary take steps to make her feel better. If your cat starts vomiting and hiding under the bed, call your vet and ask their advice.

Your cat hides under the bed due to: Anxiety

Just as a cat hides under the bed to feel safe when it hears loud or sudden noises you may find it hiding if you are amid some considerable family upheavals. The arrival of a new human baby or a new pet for instance may make your cat feel upset, especially since it is a solitary animal.

A shy cat may naturally feel safer hiding, so be aware that you need to give them plenty of time and space to learn to come out and feel confident when they are ready!

Importantly, if your cat spends an undue amount of time beneath the bed due to what you think may be anxiety, you may want to consider various therapies in order to help her. Ask your vet to refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist who will provide specialist advice.

Your cat hides under the bed to: Rest and sleep

Under normal circumstances, your cat is most likely doing this to sleep. It is when she is dozing that your cat feels most vulnerable. Hence, she will seek out a place to sleep that provides shelter from the elements as well as shelter from enemies. Hiding beneath a bed, your cat will not only feel safe but will also know that she is not likely to be disturbed during her well-earned rest.

Where else do cats like to hide?

To know the main reasons for a cat hiding under the bed will be helpful in determining if anything is upsetting it. She may merely want to sleep but she may also be anxious, injured or sick.

Some other places you may find a cat hiding follow; the reasons for her choosing such places will be those we have listed above:

  • Behind curtains
  • Behind warm kitchen appliances
  • Beneath a wooden deck
  • Beneath shrubs in the garden
  • In a kitchen or bathroom sink
  • In or on top of cupboards and wardrobes
  • Inside bags or suitcases
  • Inside cardboard boxes
  • Under blankets

Should you stop your cat from hiding under the bed?

Unless you must move the bed or gain access to something beneath it you should let your cat lie in peace. However, there is a caveat to this: if your cat habitually lies under the bed and is not always asleep she may be upset or poorly or have other medical issues. Checking on her every hour or so should give you a clear indication of her health and behaviour.

Places a cat should NOT hide

There are some places a cat will hide that we know are dangerous. Your cat may not appreciate just what danger she is in if she sleeps behind a radiator or inside a tumble dryer. After all, she is only there because it feels safe to her.
Let’s have a quick look at some places you should dissuade your cat from hiding within.

Cats should not hide: Within household appliances

Some cats will find solace in a tumble dryer or washing machine. The drum is perfectly sized and often quite warm. Do not allow this - keep the door shut and put a warning sign on the door too!

Wood stoves if used regularly are warm and cosy to a cat, but her choice of bed is unwise. Again, keep the stove door shut and put a warning sign on the door so that users will always check to ensure your cat is not inside.

TIP: If you own a cat, always check kitchen appliances, ovens and wood burners before you run them.

Cats should not hide: In garages and under cars

Cats are also fond of lying beneath cars. They have a 360 degree view of the world around them and they are sheltered. If the car has been used within the last few hours it will radiate heat onto the ground as well. However, hiding beneath a car is exceptionally dangerous for obvious reasons, and as a cat owner you should prevent your cat from choosing such a place.

Hiding in a garage is equally as dangerous and must be avoided. Most people’s garages contain toolboxes, sharp objects, electrical machinery and various chemicals such as weed killers and antifreeze (Wamiz has covered countless stories about cat’s dying from antifreeze toxicosis).

Cats can also get shut inside garages - if your cat disappears when they would normally return home, ask your neighbours to check their sheds and garages - your cat may be stuck inside!

And don’t forget to check the humble loft/attic and basement rooms!

How to get your cat out from under your bed?

If you must retrieve your cat from under your bed there are various ways to proceed. First and foremost you must make sure that you bring her out into a calm and quiet room. Trying to drag her from under the bed into noise and movement will end in tears and you will probably get hurt.

Unless you need to retrieve your cat within a matter of seconds you could try to following method for tempting her from beneath the bed:

  • Call her with a calm and loving voice
  • Offer her treats or food, perhaps even the promise of a morsel of deli food
  • Be patient and do not try to physically drag her out
  • If treats and food don’t work then try a toy, such as a fishing line

Why would a cat suddenly start hiding?

Remember, if your cat spends an undue amount of time beneath your bed there may be something wrong, and it is likely she is not there merely to sleep. Once you have tempted her from her hiding place check her over for injuries and make a mental note of the state of her health (if she is vomiting and listless take her to the vet). 

In tandem with physical checks make sure she is happy. A sad and depressed cat may not eat, she may be very vocal, she may not urinate in her box and she may groom herself obsessively. As odd as her hiding behaviour is, be vigilant of your cat at all times. She may be trying to tell you something.

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