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Why Do Cats Like Hiding in Dark Places? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat hiding in a dark place

Why Do Cats Like Hiding in Dark Places? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats love to hide behind furniture, in boxes, and under just about any object they can fit beneath. They’re so stealthy you may find yourself shaking a bag of treats just to ensure they’re still in your house! But have you ever wondered why your feline companion often puts themselves in small, dark spots?

Worry not, cat fans—hiding in dark places is often considered normal behavior! There are many interesting reasons why your cat is a hide-and-seek champion, so read on to learn more.

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The 5 Reasons Why Cats Like to Hide in Dark Places

1. Your Cat’s Natural Instincts

Cats are natural hunters, and any good hunter knows the appeal of the element of surprise! Your kitty finds these spots to be excellent vantage points to stalk their prey from, and it all dates back to their ancestors’ wild escapades in the forests hunting mice, voles, and other small critters. Your cat, however, might be stalking a toy on the floor, a dust bunny, or your toes.

If your cat seems to be darting in and out of hiding places, this is probably what’s going on. Of course, some cats just like to hide and pretend to stalk their prey. Sometimes, hiding is just as fun as catching. Therefore, don’t be surprised if your cat just hides and stares out with big, dilated eyes.

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

2. It’s Not “Dark” for Them

Did you know cats have a completely different view of the world than humans? A cat’s eye perceives light much differently than ours. A cat’s retina has more rod receptors (they’re sensitive to light, movement, and shape) than cone receptors (sensitive to color). Cats also possess a structure within each eye known as a tapetum lucidum, which further enhances their ability to see in dimly lit environments.

This means that even though we may think our cats are hiding in “dark” places, our cats might not perceive the place as dark given how they are able to still see their surroundings in such a spot. Cats cannot, however, see in pitch blackness, as they do need some light to visualize their surroundings.

Cats may hide in dark places when trying to sleep. Just like you, cats prefer to sleep when it is dark, even though they often sleep during the day. Cats often like to feel cozy when they’re napping, too. For a cat, that means finding an enclosed, comfortable space to hide in.

cat hiding in the closet
Image Credit: Anna Kraynova, Shutterstock

3. You Can’t Disturb What You Can’t Find

Do you like waking up every 5 minutes while trying to nap? No? Well, neither does your cat. Cats love to take naps during the day. Every time something disturbs your cat during the day, they wake up to respond, just like they would in the wild—and many false alarms could be annoying, you know? To get around this, your cat might nap somewhere warm and dark where they’re less likely to be bothered.

Cats often find sleeping places that are out of the way, and you can’t get more out of the way than underneath a bed. This behavior isn’t a sign that they don’t like you (or anyone else). Sometimes, cats just want to sleep.

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

4. Your Cat Is Unwell

If your formerly “normal” cat has suddenly taken a liking to dark hiding places and seems to be avoiding their favorite bed or former resting place, it might hint that that your cat is unwell. Cats are known to instinctively try and mask their illnesses. A cat that’s suddenly isolating themselves from you and hiding in a dark place all the time might in fact be unwell. If you suspect that this is the case with your cat, seek help from your veterinarian.

veterinarian examining a cat in the clinic
Image Credit: Lee Charlie, Shutterstock

5. Safety Is Key

Many animal behaviors revolve around safety, and this one is no exception. Cats don’t only hide to get the jump on prey or avoid being disturbed—they may also hide to avoid their own predators. Cats are often hunted by wolves, foxes, large birds of prey (think hawks or owls), and even other cats! Hiding from those predators is an important survival instinct in and of itself. Many cats enjoy the very act of hiding. It’s a part of play for some cats, while others might have different personalities and might not feel it’s necessary.

When stressed, cats may hide more than usual. Often, this is because their body is in “danger” mode, and one way they try to stay safe is by hiding. As mentioned above, cats that are sick will do the same thing for the same reason. If a cat is sick, they are more prone to falling victim to another predator. Therefore, staying hidden is one of the few ways they can combat this.

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

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Cats are interesting and complicated creatures. While you may find it strange that your cat is often nowhere to be seen, hiding in dark spots is crucial to their well-being. There usually isn’t a reason to worry if your cat is hiding away in dark places. Often, cats just like to hide! It’s a natural behavior that most cats exhibit at least some of the time. You should only get worried if your cat seems to be excessively hiding, as this may be a sign of an underlying illness.

Cats often hide when they are sick, though that doesn’t particularly mean that they’ll hide in dark places. Ask your vet if you think your cat may be hiding a bit too excessively.

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Featured Image Credit: Konstantin Zaykov, Shutterstock

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