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Why Do Cats Like Hiding In Dark Places? 14 Likely Reasons

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

cat staring with glowing eyes in the dark

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Cats, although domesticated, still have many of the traits they had as wild animals. Even though they get fed, for example, still enjoy stalking and pouncing on toys (or their owners). That’s just one of several traits held over from eons ago. Another is hiding in dark places, which are usually also small and cramped.

If you’ve seen your cat squeeze themselves into a small box they hardly fits in or lie in your dark closet for hours, you know what we mean. But why does your cat do this? To find out, we compiled a list of the 16 likely reasons below.

The 16 Likely Reasons Cats Like Hiding in Dark Places

1. Cats Feel Secure in Dark Spaces

Cats are small creatures, and even though they have sharp teeth and fangs, they still have a lot of fear because they’re so small. In a dark place, your cat feels more secure and safe, even if they might not be, because of the dark. They usually seek out small dark places to enhance the protection that the dark place provides. The smaller and darker the place, the more secure your cat will feel.

cat hiding in the dark
Image Credit: Lyra Nastrandir, Shutterstock

2. Cats Like the Warmth in a Small, Dark Space

Like many mammals, including humans, cats love the warmth of snuggling into a small, dark spot. If it’s small enough, their body heat will warm up the dark space and make them feel cozy. It’s also why cats love to sit on a pile of freshly dried and hot clothing.

3. Your Cat Is Feeling Shy

If you’ve just adopted your cat, you’re having a party with many friends, or for whatever reason, your cat is feeling shy, seeking out a dark space to get away is what your cat will likely do. A dark spot comforts a shy cat and lets them see what’s happening without exposing themselves to the people or pets they don’t want to see.

4. Cats Love to Snuggle Into Tight Spaces

Cats love to snuggle tightly into small spaces, and most small spaces around your home are naturally dark. That includes, for example, under your bed, under the bed’s covers, in your closet, or a small box.

cat hiding under the bed
Image Credit: ivSky, Shutterstock

5. Your Cat Likes Your Smell

Cats bond with their owners just like dogs and, since they have a keen sense of smell, know the difference between your clothes and the clothes of others. If your cat is “hiding” in your dark closet or your laundry basket filled with clothes, they might want to enjoy your smell as much as possible. If you genuinely want to make your cat happy, put a clothing item or two into a box or basket for them and place it in a dark spot in your home.

6. Cats Like to Stay Cool on Hot Days

If your cat likes crawling into the bathroom sink and staying there, especially at night when it’s dark, they might be trying to keep cool. After all, cats wear a fur coat year-round, and on hot days, the coolness of a sink, or bathtub, is just the ticket to stay comfortable. Plus, they might want a drink, which is easier if they’re in the sink. Some cats even learn to turn on the faucet!

cat lying in the bathtub
Image Credit: Natalia de la Rubia, Shutterstock

7. A Change In Your Household is Stressing Your Cat

Cats get stressed just like you do (even if they can’t vocalize their feelings as well as you can). Stress can come from many factors, like a new baby or pet in your home, visitors, construction, renovation work, etc. If your kitty is seeking out a dark place to hide during these times, it’s not surprising. They want to escape the stressful situation, and a dark place helps them do that.

8. Darkness Provides Cover for Your Cat

Cats have excellent eyesight and have no problem seeing in the dark. Because of this, many cats seek out dark spaces from where they can spy on you, other cats, and pets. The more hidden in the dark they are, the better for your cat. Some will stay in their dark hidey-hole for hours on end. If you don’t have a lot of dark spaces around your apartment, providing some is a good choice. A box is the easiest and cheapest, but a clothes hamper, dresser drawer, and others are just as good.

9. Your Cat Is Playing with You

Cats are playful creatures and enjoy engaging with you, toys, and other cats. If your cat is hiding in a dark place, it might be because your cat wants to play with you and is hoping you will come looking and try to find them. Hiding in a dark space is also a hunting method, so if your cat suddenly jumps out and “attacks” you, don’t be surprised!

cat hiding in the wardrobe
Image Credit: Rebecca Scerri, Shutterstock

10. Your Cat Is Staking Out Their Territory

Cats are territorial animals and often “stake out” a place in your home that they consider “theirs.” Once they spend enough time there, most cats will defend that territory, sometimes getting angry and hissing if you, another cat, or another pet comes near and bother them. This can become problematic, however, especially if your cat’s reaction is severe. When possible, try to give your cat other areas around your home that they can consider “theirs.”

11. You’ve Just Moved, and Your Cat Is Stressed

Moving is stressful for humans, but it can feel catastrophic for cats. That’s because, while you understand what’s happening, your cat doesn’t, and moving can freak them out. Everything they’ve ever known, seen, heard, smelled, and marked is changed, which we think you’ll agree would be terrifying if it suddenly happened to you. If you’ve just moved and your cat is hiding in a dark place in your new home, the best thing to do is let your cat stay there until they feel safe coming out and exploring their new territory.

A cat hiding under a couch
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

12. Your Cat Was Somehow Traumatized

A traumatized cat will look for a dark place to hide and stay there, sometimes for days. If, for example, your cat was attacked by a dog, a natural disaster just struck your home, or a child played with your cat too roughly, they will look for a dark place and stay in it until the person or thing that caused the trauma is gone.

13. Your Cat Is Confused Because You Rearranged Your Furniture

A cat knows the layout of your home like the back of their paw, especially an older cat that’s been with you for some time. If you rearrange your furniture, you may throw their entire world into chaos, which can cause your poor cat to look for a dark place to hide until they knows what’s happening.

14. Your Cat Is Sick

This last reason a cat will look for a dark place to hide, while sad, is not uncommon; they’re sick. A sick cat in the wild is a prime target for predators, which is why they hide if they’re sick. Of course, a trip to the vet is essential for a sick cat.

cat sleeping in the dark
Image Credit: Daronk Hordumrong, Shutterstock

Dos & Don’ts for Coaxing a Cat Out of a Dark Place

Here are a few dos and don’ts to follow if your cat stays in a dark place too long, misses meals, or won’t come out.

  • Do – Give your cat time to leave the dark place on their own.
  • Don’t – Yell at your cat to come out when they’re hiding in a dark place. (If they’ve been traumatized, yelling will only traumatize them more.)
  • Do – Place some treats outside the dark place to coax your cat out, if absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t – Use any type of force to try and remove your cat from their dark hiding place.
  • Do – Speak in a low, soft, soothing voice when trying to coax out your cat.
  • Don’t – Make loud noises to try and scare your cat out of their dark place. Again, this could traumatize your cat further.

Final Thoughts

We’ve examined 14 reasons your cat might like hiding in a dark place. Most have to do with safety, security, and your cat getting some peace of mind and “me time”. Your might have been traumatized, both of which are unhealthy situations that require veterinary attention.

In most cases, however, hiding in a dark place around your home is simply what cats do and is 100% normal behavior. Giving your cat a dark place to hide, at least when they want to, is a great idea for some cats. They will be happier about it, and your lives together will improve.

Featured Image Credit: monicore, Pixabay

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