Is Your Cat Hiding? Here’s Why — And What to Do

Hiding is a common and oftentimes just silly and normal cat behavior. So, why is your cat hiding? Does cat hiding ever indicate something serious?

A cat hiding under the couch.
A cat hiding under the couch. Photography © w-ings | E+ / Getty Images.

When pet talk show personality Tracie Hotchner appeared on the Martha Stewart Show, Martha Stewart brought her newly adopted cat to co-star in the segment. These days, Tracie is the founder of the Radio Pet Lady Network, but at the time, she had a show on Stewart’s Sirius radio channel. Unfortunately, when it came time for the cameras to roll, the feline guest of honor had seemingly disappeared. “Then, they looked on the bookshelf and found the cat squeezed between two of Martha’s cookbooks!” says Tracie with a laugh. If you’re a cat parent, you’ll probably relate to Tracie’s anecdote about cat hiding.

Cat hiding under a dresser looking scared.
Is your cat’s hiding normal — or something more? Photography © Ghostl | iStock / Getty Images.

Cat hiding at a glance

When it comes to hiding, our felines are so skilled that you often become convinced your beloved kitty has magically vanished — only to eventually find her nestled in the nook of a cupboard, perched up high above the kitchen cabinets or stealthily staking it out under the bed. But why is your cat hiding? And is it an issue if your favorite feline is indulging in hiding behaviors a little too often?

Why is your cat hiding?

When discussing cat hiding, Tracie relates it to a feline’s place in the animal food chain. “Cats are fearful ‘prey’ animals,” she says. “Almost any noise or new person or other animal or moving furniture can be stressful and drive them to hide.”

Hotchner’s characterization rings true for me: Every time the apartment doorbell sounds for delivery, my cat, Mimosa, scurries along and hides under the bed like the end of the world has just been announced. Mimosa has never experienced any harm or distress as a direct consequence of the doorbell sounding — but it seems that the newness of the noise, which she cannot pinpoint as originating inside the apartment, sparks some cat hiding instinct. The fear of the unknown can make us all act in strange ways.

What are some preferred cat hiding spots?

A common way cats hide is to box themselves in somewhere, like at the back corner of a closet. A couple of years ago, I was talking to John Bradshaw, a cat science expert and author of Cat Sense, about why cats seem to pick such boxed-in places as hiding spots. He told me that out in the wild, felines are constantly searching for “nooks and crannies to rest in because what they want is to basically have five sides out of six protected.”

This is one reason why cardboard boxes are such a popular cat hiding spot. “For five sides out of six nobodies can get at you and you can keep an eye on the sixth one,” Bradshaw says.

A cat hiding under the couch.
Newly adopted cats might hide. Photography © w-ings | E+ / Getty Images.

Cat hiding and cats in new homes

When bringing newly-adopted cats home, they often use a form of Bradshaw’s math. The standard advice to prevent cat hiding is to set up a small room — like a bathroom or utility closet — and make sure that room has all the cat’s essentials like food, water and a litter box.

Then, leave the cat alone in the room and let her get accustomed to part of her new environment at her own pace. But if you peek in, you’ll often see the cat hiding somewhere within the room itself, too.

With my cat, Mimosa, she took up a hiding position under the sink cabinet — presumably to try and achieve Bradshaw’s goal of safely boxing herself in as much as possible while still being able to spot any advancing intruders.

Is it a sign that something is wrong?

In Mimosa’s case, her bout of cat hiding didn’t last long. After leaving the bathroom door ajar, she eventually sauntered out around midnight to explore her forever home properly. These days, she occasionally enjoys hiding out in the closet where the coats and winter boots are kept.

While it’s natural for cats to retire to a preferred hiding place every so often — and this happens more during the heat and humidity of summer when they seek out dark spots to cool down — look out for significant increases in cat hiding behaviors that seem less like sneaking in a little quiet respite and more like a sign of withdrawing.

“Knowing your own cat’s habits will tell you whether the hiding is a physical problem or an emotional one,” says Tracie. If your cat usually reveals herself from her hiding place at the shake of the treat bag but starts to ignore the call, you might want to consider whether something is amiss.

Just be mindful of what Tracie says: “the number one skill needed to be a cat guardian: patience.” Never try to force a cat out of hiding. Instead, let your cat “come out in her own good time” and respect your cat’s favorite hiding tactics.

Tell us: Does your cat hide? What are some of the craziest cat hiding places you’ve seen?

Top photograph: © w-ings | E+ / Getty Images.

Read Next: Cat Won’t Stop Meowing? 7 Reasons For All That Cat Meowing

86 thoughts on “Is Your Cat Hiding? Here’s Why — And What to Do”

  1. We adopted one year old kitty, Maggie May during the pandemic June 2020. She had been outside when rescued with four babies. When we got her home, she decided the best place to be was under the recliner. All things needed were put near her recliner. After wanting to be her mommy for a week or so, I sat in another chair near her recliner but not to close. Every couple of hours I would sit there for 20 minutes, my hand down near the floor. One day nearly 2 weeks later, a little fur touched my hand. I tried to be still. I was so happy. She did this for several days, always going back to the recliner. It was not long after, we could put her kitty box and food and water dishes in their proper places. Then she warmed up to each of the 2 of us in the house immediately. After two years, she will hide under the bed if any voice different than ours is heard. My adult daughters can't believe Maggie will not befriend them. They are kitty lovers also.

  2. Been 5 weeks with our 5 year old adopted cat hiding in the basement crawlspace during the day and eating and litterbox at night upstairs. She plays and stuff, but you never see her.

  3. Our 5 year old adopted cat has been hiding in the crawl space in the basement for 5 weeks. She comes up at night to eat and use the litter box, but does not allow herself to be seen. Hoping it will end soon, as she has been coming upstairs in the dark to eat and litter. 5 weeks is so long to have a cat in the house that you never see!

  4. Hi all, my cat is not usually one for hiding. She’s getting on bit now, approaching 11 years old. Lately she has lost a lot of weight and is leaving to hide in the neighbours garden, the last time was for 2 days, until we went to retrieve her. She definitely does not seem her normal self. Moving very slowly, acting very strange. We have an appointment with vets tomorrow, but honestly we’re worried she won’t make it until then. What can I do?

  5. I have 4 cats. The 2 black ones are brother & sister. The sister, Sushi, has been hiding in my bedroom for months now. She is shy and there are 2 other females in the home. I’m thinking she’s trying to avoid the one cat, Chiclet. Could there be another reason? Nothing has changed in our house but I do know that the female cats are tempermental.

  6. MT girl, Paris, likes to “hide” under an ottoman. I sometimes get worried when she does this as she will be 11 in Nov. and I worry she is ill. I forget she dies this during change of seasons. Now that the October weather has turned cooler she’s under the Ottoman more. I guess it’s warm and cozy there.

  7. tWiTcHy LiTtLe FeRrEt

    does letting my cat hide in a box when i first adopt them help so that they can get used to their surrondings? Im looking to adopt in a few months time!!

  8. I think my older cat is upset with me because I have adopted a stray kitten. They really don’t bother each other but my older cat has taken to sleeping in my closet and kitchen cupboard. She comes out to be fed sits with me on the couch purrs when I groom and pet her then hides again. Is she anxious about the new kitten? What can I do?

      1. Bernadette Grillo

        Hi , I saw your post. I fear my cat is sick. She is about13. 2 weeks ago she started hiding and spend s 24 hours in our basement hiding ehind the chair. She has always been attached to me . What are your thoughts

  9. we have just started foster a new cat. for now we have set up a big crate for him (was use to show bullmastiffs years ago) with for water litter and a box to hide in. we have done this cause we dont have a closed in place to use. he seem ok in there every now an then meowing so we would give him some attention. he love the attention so. he closed all the doors to rooms and just left the living room open, and open the crate gate to let him out. he was curious looking around and instantly went looking for hiding spots like under the couch (we blocked off cause hes a big cat and we were afraid hed get stuck). he was still very happy with us sitting on the ground and and patting him. loved it actually. but as soon as we stopped is was back to finding hiding. we are trying to make hiding spots with boxes and stuff but he isnt interested in them yet. what to do? we havent had a cat this friendly but also so willing to hide.

    1. I have a cat that was giving to me from another home. I understand the cat will hide @ first but it has been a month now. I asked the previous owner ” has she ever been mistreated? He answer was no…she is just a shy cat.Will she ever come out of hideing?I’m & adopting a cat that isn’t shy. I wanted a pet. Not one that hides.

        1. Shelters are a death sentence for shy cats, i used to work at one,house of death and sadness is what a shelter is. Its like living on death row.. I would simply keep her and adopt another cat who is more playful. If she is always hiding it wont feel like you have too many cats, so why not save her life along with the life of another shelter cat

          1. Alyssa Shumac – your comment helped my perspective enormously, and I wanted you to know that. I, too, adopted (private party) a shy cat who is over-the-top shy, she hides all day and comes out at night to eat.
            However, before I adopted her I also adopted an 8 month old orange tabby named Fiona. Fiona is outgoing and energetic and she’s my little monkey; my invisible cat at least is protected and not on death row. She is almost 9 but I’ve had her to the VET and her health is excellent. She just hides. That’s her thing. By the way, people who visit think I have 1 cat. It’s hilarious!

        2. Donovan Noelle Swann

          Having a pet is about real lives, not personal preference. Personal Preference is for food, clothes, etc. Not for someone who depends on you for everything.

          Try being more patient. Give this cat lots of treats and love. It needs to feel safe in its new environment to want to come out of hiding.

          1. I’m concerned with a feral cat that was hiding in our shop and usually it’s terrified and bolts out, but it really didn’t want to go. I had to slide it to scoot it away from me to an exit to escape which it took its time doing. I don’t know what this means.

        3. That is really sad to think of saying or doing. I can’t believe you.
          She needs time and adjustment, not to be your “preference “

        4. I feel the same way you do Lani. I’ve had my 3 mo old ktten for a month. She’s always in hiding. Not always the same place, but many different places. I’ve looked for her but in very few cases do I find her hiding places. She comes out after I go to bed to eat and use the litter box. Other than that I never see her. She may scoot out fast when I get up in the morning only to find another hiding place. I wanted a pet to have company and this little one acts like she will never become a true pet and companion. Im really torn on what to do.

      1. She may still become more social, patience is important with new cats. I adopted a cat who would not leave out from underneath our bed. Every day we would let her hide but pet her under the chin when we could reach her. Eventually she’d slink out and then run back under when we were done petting her. At night she would explore and after a few months she was brave enough to leave our room. It took a good bit of time, but she is so social and a great lap cat now. We now also have a cat who likes to hide in the basement rafters, he’s very skittish but loves attention as well.

        1. We adopted a two year old cat who is still living under the sofa and only comes out at night when we aren’t around or asleep to go and eat and dedicate it the litter box. It’s been 9 days and I’m starting to wonder if this kitty will come around and warm up to us. More time is perhaps needed I guess

          1. I also just adopted a cat who also only comes out from under the bed at night (when we’re asleep) to eat and use the litter box. How is it going with your car now? Has he or she stared to warm up to you yet?

      2. Lani, I’m curious — is your cat still in hiding? I have a cat that was given to me 8 days ago (Loooong days!) who is hiding. Until today, if I popped my head under the area to see her, she hissed. Today for the first time she didn’t, though that’s no guarantee of anything. I’m curious to know how long your cat remained in hiding.

      3. I just brought a 2 year old male cat from the shelter. He seems to appear every night between 9:30 and 10:30PM. He stays out unti I get up…then it’s back under the bed. I lost my best forever friend, Alyssa, on June 17th. She was 15 1/2 years old. I too wanted a companion. It has been 3 weeks and I have not seen any progress. Have you had any luck since your post?

  10. My cat Milky squeezed between the laundry machine and the wall when I first brought her home, very narrow space. She was afraid of my cat Angel, who was huge and wild. She hid for two weeks, and I was so happy when she finally came out.

    She also hid behind the sofa on the day she died from an enlarged heart. Cats hide to die because it’s the sensible thing to do in the wild when you’re sick and vulnerable.

    My Amiga hid after being hit by a car, in a long narrow box used for a long neon light. And she’s such a fat cat. This box was narrower than an arm, but she squeezed in somehow. She was OK after an operation to her upper jaw.

  11. Cats display many odd behaviors due to their predatory instincts. For instance, when I’m in the bathroom my female cat will grab part of the rug with her paws. I believe she thinks she’s back in the wild and she just caught prey.

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  15. Tyger Schonholzer

    I have one cat with an allergic skin condition. She gets an allergy shot about once a month. I can usually tell when it’s time, because she grooms more and starts to hide in dark spots, acting weird. A couple of days after she gets her shot, she is back on the bed looking for snugglies

  16. Rescued two wild kittens from the cold, no more than 6 weeks old and one of them is doing great, the other is ridiculous. She won’t let me pet her. She hides all day long. I have no idea where she is hiding. Sometimes I go all day without seeing her. Nothing will get her out of hiding. Not treats, not food, not toys. I’ve tried everything to make this cat comfortable and I think it just belongs back in the wild honestly. The other cat is perfect. She’s playful, sleeps on the bed, meows when she’s hungry. I love that cat. The other one though, i don’t know what to do with her.

    1. How old are they? Are they still babies? If so, give her a little time. Hopefully she’ll grow out of it. And as I posted and as this article states, that’s part of the odd behaviors we as cat owners have to deal with. But in your case, it may be wise to get a professional opinion.

    2. Simply give it time. Either she comes around or she hides like shes not there. Just get the cat fixed to prevent breeding and keep her food bowl full and see what happens.she may have a past trauma she needs to work thru

    3. read above what Alyssa Shumac says —-giving up a shy kitty who hides, to a shelter, is a death sentence….you have one sociable kitty and one invisible kitty….that could be fun and unobtrusive for you. I’m sure you’re not thinking of turning it outside. That would be tragic.

  17. I have 2 Male Cats brothers One is an Alfa and
    Bullies his tabby brother at times, and other times
    The nestle and sleep together. They are house Cats
    Since I got them as kittens from a shelter. My Tabby
    Insists on drinking waster from a faucet – Running
    Water please. Asks for it. They are presently 7 yrs
    Last September.
    Last night out of the Blue my Tabby went under the couch instead of coming to bed with me and brother
    Alfa Cat.
    He has been there all night and this morning 12 hours.
    He ate his treats that I placed near the opening
    Under the couch.
    This is New behavior.

    1. Wow that’s cute! I have two American Shorthairs, a brother and sister I adopted from an animal hospital when they were 8 weeks old. And I’m glad you don’t yours out because neither do I. My first one was a neighbor’s cat whom I adopted. She was killed by a car when she was only three. So when I found out about these eight week old kittens, I jumped in my car and zoomed over to the hospital and got them. And I promised my girlfriend and myself that would never let them out.

    2. Cats are weird. Our boy attacks the older female when they’re inside. She scopes out the best hiding spots. Some he hasn’t figured out.
      Outside, it’s a different story and a level playing field. He hides from her!
      Cats are weird.

  18. I adopted a cat they said she never had a home. We thought she was going to have a hard time adjusting but she actually did well. She only hides when we have company. And when she hides, her secret place is under the kitchen cabinets. There is a tiny hole but she squeezes through. I tried to fix the hole but she pushed through when we have company.

  19. We adopted a year old cat. She immediately hid when we brought her home. Didn’t get a chance to show the cat box. Last night, first night we grabbed her from under the couch to put in bathroom with food, water and litter box. She used her litter box. Earlier in the day before putting her in bathroom, she peed two places in the house.
    What should I do?

    1. I don’t think locking her in the bathroom is a good idea. I think you should let her acclimate herself to her new environment. She’s only a year old and still pretty much a baby. It’s not like you had her when she was only a few weeks old. You don’t know where she could have been or what she experienced in that time frame. Give her time to adjust and I think in a few weeks you’ll notice a sharp change. And please don’t let her out (if you can help it).

    2. With a new cat, the best thing to do is let them stay at first in a smaller space with food and a litter box, and a place to retreat to. Gradually, as they get used to the smaller space, you can open up more space for them. Being in a new family can be overwhelming.
      Imagine if you were suddenly picked up and transferred to a new place, where you didn’t know anyone, or where you were. If there are other inhabitants (other pets) , they might make it clear that you weren’t welcome.
      You might be afraid to use the bathroom, because who knows what might attack you while you were vulnerable?
      A small, quiet room where you begin to spend quiet time with kitty might help.

  20. We just adopted a three year old cat from another city resulting in a long drive in her carrier. We let her out of the carrier, first showing her the litter box , food and water. She darted out and hid somewhere. It has been two days. She hasn’t touched her food/water or used the litter box. WE’ve searched everywhere Any suggestions.

  21. My cat has been hiding in the basement in one corner for a few days now. I bring her up to my room, where she normally sleeps (hiding like this is abnormal) but then when everything is said and done she’s always back in the basement. She’s special needs with a compromised immune system and she’s my little baby, and I’m so scared. I know it sounds silly but it freaks me out when she has sudden behavior changes like this, plus it’s SUPER cold in this basement. I’m scared she’ll get sick!!!

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  23. Adopted a 4-month-old kitten 3 weeks ago and she’s been hiding ever since. I feed her, I make sure her litter is fresh, I give her lots of toys. Nothing. She comes out while I’m asleep or at work, but if I try to approach her on the rare occasions that I do see her, she runs or hisses. I want a companion not an antisocial roommate.

    1. The reason for this is probably the cat has experienced abuse or something that hurt it mentally or physically before the adoption.

    2. I am a foster parent and we see this often. Dont despair. The cat will come along in it’s own time. But you can’t force it. Continue to provide the goodies and when they feel safe they will come out. It can be days weeks or months.

  24. Hi, I adopted a 2months cat last week, she is ok and we play alot during the day, but she has a habit, she sleeps at noons, and this time is same as my job’s time, but something is weird, when she wakes up for a moment and finds herself alone, she runs and hide under my desk, Is it a serious problem??

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  29. I adopted a 10 year old cat from a shelter in August but he is still hiding under the bed. I have never once seen him come out. I can pick him up and pet him and he seems to like it but as soon as I stop he darts bad under the bed. All the articles I have read talk about cats hiding for days or weeks, not months. I am at a loss.

    I live by myself in a one room studio apartment.

    1. Block off access to the under the bed and other hiding spots. Set up basecamp in a social area of the house such as the living room with a cat tree, bed, toys, etc. Have you tried playing with him?

  30. I’ve been seeing a guy since beginning of August and the first day he came over he met my cat.. and he hugged him and petted him and everything was fine.. since a couple weeks in… and my guy friend comes over to visit he hides from me and my guy friend… what could have happened? My guy friend has never hurt my cat so I don’t know why he’s scarred. He also hissed at him when I brought him close… and that’s not like my cat.. what could be wrong?

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this. These articles might provide some further insight:

    2. it sounds like you cat is jealous. Before your guy friend came into the picture your cat had all the attention and had you to itself. Your attention now has gone to your guy friend and your cat feels threatened. Mommy has somebody new, am I being replaced. This new guy is OK but he takes Mommy away from me. Just my guess Amanda. Good Luck with both of them. If your cat is male a new guy has invaded his space and taken Mommy from him.

  31. our cats constantly freak me out with their hiding games as I fret about them getting outside
    although we live on a reasonably quiet street we constantly have idiot drivers hooning down the street and I stress that if our cats get outside that they will be killed by a speeding motorist
    we have 4 cats -7yo female ragdoll cross
    -3yo male Bengal cross
    – 1yo tabby male
    – and my 16 yo daughters girl mixed breed less than a year old
    who turned up on our doorstep and never left
    At least 2 of our cats have such a strong curiosity that they don’t fully understand danger so we have found them in all manner of hiding spots around the house
    the best one has been when our 7yo girl managed to climb on top of our fridge and get through a hole in the roof and into the ceiling space of the unit we were renting she came down when she got hungry but managed to worry us sick for a whole day while she was curled up in the roof sound asleep all day
    what amazes me is they manage to find such small spaces to be able to crawl into that seem to be half their size
    now they all have bells on their collars so I don’t worry as much cause I can hear their bell and know where they are plus I also have a written list of every known hiding spot in the house so if we do have a missing cat we can check all the hiding spots before we start to worry
    at least I know we must really love them if we worry so much about them but my human kids get very jealous lol

  32. Back in 1975, we had adopted a male Siamese 8 week old kitten. We named him SiChiang. He was always so full of mischief, and we never knew what he would do next. As he grew up and found what places he could hide from us, we began to realize it was a game of hide-and-seek to him. Once we had a hard time finding him, we searched everywhere. Suddenly we found that he knew how to open up the lower kitchen cabinets by using his paw to grab the knob. He had did that and climbed up into the back of the drawer above the lower cabinet, and hid in the drawer where we kept the dish towels. We were amazed at his inginuity to do such a thing, and hide in an unexpected place.

    1. My cat came into the kitchen sniffing around.She found an opening under the cabinets and vanished.Scared me half to death. I called her name and she came out. I am getting a collar with a bell for her!

  33. I’ve had cats all my life(82) and I’ve never had a cat that would run and hide, until now. My cat Sammie runs and hide if someone is at the front door, but would stay around if someone comes to the back door. It doesn’t matter if it’s family or not. But, if she’s happy with the person, she would greet that person.

  34. I have two fur babies – Cinnamon and Nova.
    They are everything to me… so I know their behaviors very very well.
    Nova sleeps with me every night – gets in bed within 5 minutes of me getting in bed. She is very social and very talkative.
    Last year randomly one day, she wouldn’t come out from under the bed or talk. I couldn’t figure out why for the life of me. I was hysterical. Well 3 or 4 days in, I am sitting on my sofa when a BED BUG WALKS ACROSS ME!!!
    Yes… somehow I had bedbugs. And as soon as I discovered this and ransacked/cleaned my house, her behavior went back to normal.

  35. My 7 year old cat hates my boyfriend since we moved in together. She was fine with him, until we brought in a street kitty, and she stopped sleeping in the room with us. We got a smaller apartment a couple of months ago, and she’s been living behind the couch ever since. When i’m around she slowly comes out, to chill on the couch, but when he’s alone in the living room, she doesn’t pop out. I think she’s just throwing a big tantrum, just because she looks and acts like the queen of the house when i’m here. I was thinking of getting that feliway spray to see if it works, and she feels more comfortable.

    1. Hi Larisa,
      Thanks for reaching out! These articles might help provide some insight as well:

    2. You have put her through a lot of changes: 1-boyfriend moved in, 2- street kitty moves in, 3- smaller apartment. Try to see things from her point of view. She once had you all to herself and she misses that. Be kind to her and think how you might feel if it was your life that had been turned upside down and you were helpless to stop it.

  36. My Callie hides when it is time to get combed. She picks the same spots (behind the chair, under the end table, under the sewing table) so I know where to find her. I can’t seem to convince her that she can come out, even with her favorite treats. But it seems to be a game with her as she sits in her hiding spot and purrs loudly. She is the fearful one of our 2 cats as the doorbell, a plastic bag, or any loud noise scares her off into hiding. If it is really bad like thundering in a storm, she will race up and down the stairs as if she can’t decide where to get away from the thunder booms. Not sure what can help her.
    Sunny on the other hand doesn’t mind the thunder, the doorbell, or just about any noises that startle even me. She is very calm about most things (except to go to the vet).

    1. Hi there Nancy,

      Thanks for reaching out! Here is an article on how to help your cat during thunderstorms:

      7 Ways to Help a Cat Who Is Scared of Thunderstorms

      Here is an article about getting a cat to the vet even if he hates it:

      How to Get Your Cat to the Vet — Even If He Really, Truly Hates It

      This article provides insight on common cat fears and how to help them:

      What Are Cats Scared Of? 6 Things Cats Are Scared Of and How to Help Them Overcome Those Fears

  37. My 10 year old orange Tabby, Tiger, likes to hide under a twin bed in my spare bedroom. I don’t know why and he comes out when he decides to.

  38. My feral cats hide when people they don’t know come around. For 2 of them, this has been going on for years…every since I adopted them, and I mean EVERYONE except me.

    1. Carol A Ericsson

      My Black Beauty Leyla…jumps from the floor to the stove top to the fridge…opens the cabinet over the fridge and lays there!!! It’s her New Favorite Spot…????????????


  39. My 12 lb tabby Luke found a shelf in the back and under the seat of my Lazy Boy chair that he can just fit in. Only one side of six is open. The only way I found him was his fluffy tail hanging down!

  40. We had a Maine Coon cat who tore the bottom fabric out of the box springs on our bed and made herself a hammock.

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