As cat guardians, most of us are aware that within the bodies of our adorable, fluffy feline friends lurk fearsome predators. However, cats evolved not just as predators, but as prey to larger carnivores as well. And even though cats are some of the most efficient predators in the world, small cats (like our “domestic” house cats) evolved behaviors specifically to avoid being eaten by someone with bigger teeth and larger claws. No matter how safe their home might be, our little kitties are programmed to avoid predation. This behavior manifests itself in several ways – it’s why cats love hiding. Many cats like to hang out in high places (so that they can see what’s around them and avoid ambush); prefer their litter-boxes to be placed in corners of rooms with clear lines of sight and no corners or shelves where predators can hide; and orient their body direction towards cats or people they don’t necessarily know or trust. But in fact, the first line of defense for a cat not wishing to become someone’s dinner involves not being seen in the first place.
Why do cats love hiding?
When a cat finds a good hiding spot, they feel safe and more comfortable than being out in the open. It’s no wonder why cats enjoy finding spots in our homes that conceal their location – they can snooze in peace and dream about catching the mouse, instead of being the mouse. In a small little cat cave (whether it’s a box, bag, under the bed, or tucked in a closet), a cat can quickly become familiarized with the small area, fill it with its own scent, and create a safe spot in which to relax. Cats in homes with several people, young children, other animals, etc. will often seek these safe spaces out to get a few moments of “alone time”, which we all need occasionally!
Further, hiding spots are very important to cats who are new to their environment, or who are just beginning to be socialized with people or animals. Cats need a safe spot in these cases – being out in the open and vulnerable to interactions with anyone who comes along can be very stressful and scary to a new cat, and can really be detrimental to the new cat getting to know a new home or learning about humans. I’ve talked with several people who have adopted under-socialized kitties who report that their cat just hides under the bed all of the time. Obviously, these cats need places to go, but hiding under the bed all the time is not going to help!
I believe that we can do better for these cats by providing them with safe hiding places that can help them adjust to a new home or people. A cat who has stationed herself under the bed is completely unreachable (and attempts to get a scared cat out from under the bed can go very wrong for everyone involved), so blocking off access to the bed or behind a couch and providing alternative hiding spots is preferable. Several alternative hiding spots should be offered, and they can be placed in different orientations; for example, you might put a cat cave in the corner of a room on the top of a cat tree, or put a cardboard box on its side with a towel partially covering the opening opposite a door so the kitty can see who comes and goes. This allows the cat to take on an observational role until she becomes comfortable enough to explore and interact with the things and people in the new environment.
Hiding spots around the home can also help keep the peace in multi-cat families. Cats who are prone to being chased or bullied by more dominant cats (or dogs) in the home will appreciate safe places to hide where they go unnoticed by other animals. While I encourage you to work on improving those relationships where there is aggression happening between animals in your home, providing some safe hiding spots can go a long way to giving your kitties the space they need to peacefully coexist.
What kind of hiding places do cats love?
Whether your cat hides for the sheer pleasure of it, she’s acclimating to a new environment or people, or taking a break from interacting with the other beings in your home, cats love hiding in different types of nooks and crannies. I actually interviewed my own cats about their favorite kitty caves that I’ve provided them, and this is the list they gave me, listed in order of the amount of money I had to shell out for their royal highnesses:
Hide and Sneak Cat Tunnel, by Dezi & Roo
This might be the BEST bang for your buck you’ll get in a cat hiding spot, because it’s not just a place to hide, it’s a place to play. To be completely transparent, Dezi & Roo sent one of these for free to see what I thought about it (or my cats, really), but this amazing cat tunnel is ONLY $10.99 for all the rest of you!!! There are several things I love about it. First, there’s both an entrance and exit, which can help cats feel more secure knowing that they are not “trapped” if someone decides to enter the tunnel behind them. Second, it’s completely collapsible, which makes it super easy to put away (rotate toys to keep them fresh!) or travel with – popping this baby up in a hotel room can provide a familiar place for your cat to hide in while on a road trip. Third, it’s made in the US out of recyclable paper and cardboard. Yes, it is basically a large cardboard bag with holes on both ends, but my tunnel has lasted forever. My cats sleep in it, play in it (it makes an irresistible crinkling sound), and have even torn open a corner that they use as a little spy-hole to attack toys or bat at each other from. This is simplicity at its best – cats love simple, and this is inexpensive, fun, and convenient. WE LOVE THIS TUNNEL! For more details, please go to Dezi & Roo’s website here.
HEXA-Scratch Cat Scratcher, by Savvy Tabby
In our home, we also love this hexagonal cat cubby that is made with six corrugated cardboard sides that cats can also scratch. The great thing about this hiding option is that it can be moved anywhere – cats love being up high, so I actually put this one on our fireplace mantle (it’s in a corner, so there’s plenty of room for it) and Abbey could comfortably hang out in it and keep an eye on what our other cats were doing from a safe place. It’s really easy to assemble (no tools or glue), and it’s only $17.50 from baxterboo.com. There are a couple of other sizes and models that these cubbies come in, too. My cats don’t really use it for scratching, but smaller cats and kittens might really enjoy it for that purpose as well.
Cat Ball Beds, by The Cat Ball
One of the first cave-style beds I bought for my cats was a Cat Ball. They are roomy enough for our larger kitties, and on a couple of occasions I’ve caught our two largest cats in one (ok, so the larger one was hanging out by a significant amount, but his upper half was in the ball, so it still counts). Cat Ball beds are padded and come in many different fabrics and styles (regular and large sizes, special editions like sharks and whales, and even a cat canoe style that is more like a regular bed). Cat Balls have a larger opening on one side and a smaller opening opposite, again allowing cats not to feel trapped. Check out the current styles and colors on The Cat Ball website; Cat Balls start at around $55 and prices go up depending on style. But they last a long time and the cute fabrics are worth it!
Le Sharma Cat Caves
This really is more of a cat cave, with an opening that is on the top, leaving a snuggly cave in the back of the bed. We have one cat (Momo, pictured) who really likes this bed, and I suspect that the other cats know it has been claimed by her because the others don’t use it all that much. I LOVE the purple and gray model that I have – it was either that one or the turquoise and gray, but honestly, either one is an attractive choice. These are made entirely of felted wool in Nepal with natural dyes. And they are a little bit more expensive – around $70. You can see all of the color choices at the Le Sharma website, HERE.
Vesper Cat Trees
Ok, Catit has had a line of cat furniture for a few years now that I love – the Vesper furniture collection. It. Is. Awesome. For too long, we’ve lived with carpeted monstrosities in our living room serving as cat trees! Sure, our cats like them, but us? Not so much. The reason why I’m including the Vesper cat trees in this article is because nearly all of the trees have an elevated cubby box that your cat can use as a hiding spot. The box is off the ground which gives your cat some height for a better line of site, the boxes have an entrance/exit on opposite sides, AND, there’s a removable pad of carpet on the bottom of the box that you can wash if necessary. And did I mention that it’s stylish? My cats love this one – we have the shorter Vesper Base model, and it was only about $90. Totally worth it, in my opinion!
I hope you’ve gained some insight about why cats love hiding, and how you can better provide them with suitable hiding spots. There are a lot of products out there but these are my (I mean my cats’) favorites.