New kitten hiding? Here are five potential reasons

24 November 2023 - 3 min read
white and orange kitten with green eyes peeks out from behind a hiding spot in a basket

Getting a new kitten is exciting, so it's a bit of a letdown when your furry friend spends more time hiding than purring in your lap.

If you find your kitten often retreating to hideaways, it can be totally normal, but it can also mean they're in pain or something's amiss.

Here are five potential reasons why your kitten might be hiding and some helpful strategies to help.

They're adjusting

Kittens, solitary or among other pets, need time to adjust to new spaces. They often hide while getting used to their surroundings, more so if they're naturally shy.

Introducing a kitten to other pets such as dogs, should be gradual. Start with separate spaces, then slowly introduce them with short, supervised meetings. Ensure each has their own space and toys to foster a peaceful environment.

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How to help

Creating a safe haven for your kitten is crucial. One study actually showed that cats in a shelter benefitted from a dedicated "hiding box." So why not embrace the concept?

Choose a quiet, low-traffic area of your home for this space. Equip it with a comfortable bed, a litter box, and separate food and water dishes. This area should be a sanctuary where the kitten can retreat and feel secure, away from noise, other pets, and household activity, and emerge when they're ready.

They're in pain

Physical discomfort or illness can also lead your kitten to hide. So how do you know if they're hiding due to illness?

This one's tricky. Even healthy cats and kittens may exhibit "sick" behaviours such as vomiting when they're stressed out, according to one study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

A healthy cat, or any healthy mammal, can feel the stress of environmental disruption and exhibit sickness behaviors.

"A healthy cat, or any healthy mammal, can feel the stress of environmental disruption and exhibit sickness behaviours as a result," said the lead researcher on the study, Tony Buffington.

How to help

If you suspect something's not right with your kitten's health, get to a vet.

Even if you aren't sure, it's a good idea to establish care with a vet you trust so you can make sure your cat's up-to-date on vaccinations and set up for a healthy future.

They have separation anxiety

While cats are generally more independent than dogs, they can still feel distress when left alone for long periods of time​​​​.

Some kittens may hide due to separation anxiety, which is not uncommon in cats. Some signs to know, in addition to hiding, include:

Alternatively, it could be a health issue, or related to changes. So, how can you tell?

How to help

Again, call your vet. If it actually is separation anxiety, your vet can help you figure that out and come up with a game plan.

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They're playing

Kittens often engage in playful behaviours like hide-and-seek. This is a healthy part of their development, fostering agility and hunting skills. To tell if your kitten is hiding for fun or due to anxiety, pay close attention to their body language.

A kitten that's playing will exhibit energetic and curious behaviours. You might notice them peeking out from their hiding spot with bright, alert eyes or even playfully pouncing from their concealed position. In contrast, a kitten hiding due to anxiety will appear more withdrawn and may try to make themselves as small and inconspicuous as possible.

How to help

Encourage healthy play by using interactive toys, like feather wands or balls, to engage their interest and build confidence.

It's just their personality

While some kittens are bold and adventurous, others might be more reserved and prone to hiding.

You'll get to know their little personalities even more over the course of several weeks, and you'll be able to tell what's normal.

How to help

You don't want to traumatise a sensitive kitten, but you definitely still want to make sure you're handling them.

“Handling your cat is vital,” says Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian and founder of the tele-health platform MomentMD. “This is especially true for kittens. Provided they are not too shy or scared, snuggling and handling helps provide emotional support for your cat, while getting them used to your touch.”

Provided they are not too shy or scared, snuggling and handling helps provide emotional support for your cat, while getting them used to your touch.

Never force interactions; some kittens may take up to three weeks to feel comfortable with handling in a new environment​​.

Respecting your kitten’s need for time and space while providing a safe, loving environment can help them emerge from hiding and begin to explore their new world with confidence.

For more insights on bonding with your cat and ensuring their well-being, check out our posts on bonding with your cat, separation anxiety in cats, and preparing for a new kitten.

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Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.