Cat Not Eating And Hiding –
Why, What to Do & When To Be Concerned

cat not eating and hiding

May 18, 2022

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As a cat owner, you probably know that every cat is a unique individual with a distinct personality. Some cats are bold, mischievous, and social, while others may be shy and like to retreat from all the commotion around them.

But what if your cat is not eating and is hiding more than usual? Is it a sign of illness, and should you be concerned?

If your cat is not eating and hiding, this article will help you assess what the problem may be and what you can do to help your cat.

Loss Of Appetite & Hiding Behavior in Cats

Some cats are very shy, and hiding may be normal for them if there is even the slightest change in their environment or there is a visitor in your home. On the other hand, some cats don’t usually hide, and hiding may be considered unusual behavior for them.

Hiding is not normal behavior for cats unless your cat is very shy or there have been changes to its environment.
– Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM

When your cat is not eating but hides more than usual, it is a sign that something is going on.

If you have a healthy cat, the typical reasons why it no longer eats and hides are stress, fear, and anxiety.

Think about whether there is a factor in its environment that could cause these changes. Did you bring a new pet into the house? Or maybe your cat has some unfinished business with your neighbor’s cat? Does your kitty panic every time you turn on the vacuum cleaner or when you want to clip its nails?

These are just some of the reasons that can cause stress to your cat.

Normally, this behavior fades with the disappearance of the stressor when the cat feels safe again. But what do you do when your cat doesn’t eat for a while and starts hiding without any apparent reason?

It is normal that cats lack an appetite for a while, and they may also be hiding if they are stressed or anxious at the same time. However, if this behavior continues for more than 1-2 days, you need to see a vet.

When cats begin to hide, they are actually looking for a place where they can stay away from prying eyes and stressors that can cause them even more discomfort. They want to feel safe and secure.

On the other hand, sick cats hide because unhealthy animals are easy prey in the wild and need to hide to stay safe.

Therefore, causes for your cat to change its behavior can also include systemic conditions, such as pancreatitis and kidney or liver disease –but we will talk about these diseases later in the article.

Why Is My Cat Not Eating And Hiding?

Lack of appetite and hiding are common symptoms among cats with various health problems, and it is important to know why these behavioral changes occur.

Like dogs, cats avoid contact when they are unwell. This protective instinct can make them more aggressive towards the owner, other people, or pets, and cause them to hide, making it difficult to monitor their wellbeing. It is impossible to know what your cat is doing if it’s hiding all day long!

There are many reasons why a cat may refuse food and start hiding. The most important thing is to get to know your cat and realize in advance when something is wrong with it and act accordingly.
– Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM

One of the main reasons why a cat no longer eats and hides is pain. Pain causes stress and discomfort. Many diseases are accompanied by pain, such as dental disease, bone, and joint disease, cancer, etc.

cat not eating

Dental problems

Most dental problems are accompanied by pain. Pain can cause a cat to lose its appetite, refuse food, hide, and behave strangely. Signs that your cat may have dental problems include:

  • Your cat only sniffs the food
  • It takes a kibble or two in its mouth but spits them out
  • Your cat walks away from food
  • Your cat paws its mouth or scratches its ears or cheeks
  • Your cat is hyper salivating – sometimes you can see blood in the saliva

Another dental issue that can cause a cat to stop eating and hide is teeth loss. This problem is usually seen in senior cats or outdoor cats that fight over territory. When the teeth are loose, or a cat has missing or no teeth, it will be difficult to chew dry food, and pain and stress can occur.

Stress

What may be stressful for one cat may be normal for another. Stress depends on each individual. Maybe your cat is scared of the vacuum cleaner and hides for two hours, while others like to be vacuumed!

  • A stressed cat will show the following signs:
  • It will eat less or stop eating
  • It will hide
  • It may suddenly become aggressive
  • It can vocalize more
  • It can do its business in places other than the litter box
  • Overgrooming
  • It can develop digestive problems, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • It may sleep longer

If your cat is under constant stress, it can become chronic, and chronic stress can lead to more severe health problems, such as diabetes and depression.

Anxiety or depression

Anxiety is often caused by too much stress. A very stressed cat can become anxious and start to behave strangely.

Depression is a disease that can severely affect cats too. Depression often occurs due to deprivation of liberty (such as keeping a cat only in a cage), abuse, frequent relocation, or when they feel alone for too long.

  • Anxiety and depression in cats are manifested by:
  • Aggression against the owner or other people and pets
  • Prolonged sleep
  • Changed eating behaviors – the cat eats less or stops eating
  • Looking for places to hide and staying there as long as possible

It may be a sign your cat is dying

I know it sounds harsh, but unfortunately, cats die too. Domestic cats live around 12-20 years, sometimes even longer. If your cat is very old, hiding, and refusing to eat may also be a sign that they might be dying soon.

Signs that indicate a cat is dying include:

  • Lack of interest in food and water
  • Extreme weakness – dying cats move with difficulty and lack energy
  • The body’s temperature drops
  • It stops grooming – also, your pet’s fur might have an abnormal odor
  • Starts looking for places to hide
  • Stops using the litter box

6 Common Reasons Why Your Cat Is Not Eating

There are many situations in which your cat may refuse food.

1. Changes in food

You may have recently changed your cat’s food suddenly and not gradually as recommended. Your cat may also find a new diet unappetizing and refuse to eat it because of the unfamiliar taste.

2. Changes in routine

Cats don’t like change. They are creatures of habit. If you have recently changed your cat’s daily routine, it is possible that your kitty may refuse food as a result of stress or anxiety.

3. Ambient temperature

If the temperature of the environment in which your cat lives rises, its appetite may decrease until the point it refuses food.

4. Car rides. 

Some cats can suffer from motion sickness, and they can refuse food and hide when you get back home after your ride.

cat hiding and not eating

5. Vaccination

Some cats may experience mild side effects after vaccination, such as gastrointestinal problems, lethargy, and appetite loss. Your cat can also look for a place to hide when you get home from the vet as a result of stress.

6. Bringing a new cat home/new or newly adopted cats

It can be a very stressful experience to move into a new home for some cats. From the moment you take the cat out of its carrier to let it explore its new home, it hides under the nearest furniture without showing any signs of wanting to get out of there too soon. It barely eats during the day or only comes out at night when no one is awake to nibble on some food.

This behavior is normal for cats that are under stress. It will take your cat a while to adjust, so just be patient. Give it space, don’t force it to come out, and make sure it has plenty of fresh water and food.

Medical issues why your cat is not eating  

Refusal of food can be a sign of a more severe “hidden” illness. The list of potential causes for which cats do not eat is diverse and long, but the main ones are:

Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

This disease is often accompanied by clinical signs such as decreased appetite, fever, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Kidney disease

If your cat suffers from kidney disease, you may notice dehydration, dull fur, excessive thirst, loss of appetite, weight loss, specific smelly breath, diarrhea, vomiting, and depression.

Liver disease

Signs that your cat is suffering from liver disease may include loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, abdominal fluid, urination, and excessive thirst.

Respiratory disease

This category includes upper respiratory infections or feline flu. The cat will stop eating because it has a hard time breathing, and its sense of smell is weakened. A cat with respiratory infections will also have eye and nose discharge and difficulty breathing.

In addition to pain, most of these diseases come with general discomfort, which can make your cat hide, stop eating, and sleep more.

Vet’s Tip

A cat that suddenly chooses to hide often suffers from medical problems that can be life-threatening if not detected and treated promptly. Never let your cat get to the point where you can’t do anything to save his life.

Should You Worry About Your Cat Hiding And Not Eating?
Vet Explains

There are all kinds of situations. Some can be severe, and others can resolve on their own in a few hours.

For example, if your cat is scared of the vet and does not like car rides, it is normal behavior for your pet to hide when you get home with it after a vet visit and refuse food for a couple of hours or more. This is not anything to worry about!

On the other hand, if your cat has not eaten for one or two days, it stays hidden all the time and shows other symptoms, as well, it is possible it “hides” something, such as a severe health condition.

Along with the loss of appetite and staying hidden most of the time, other signs that should make you worried are 

  • sleeping more
  • not drinking water
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • aggression
  • vocalization, etc.

If you notice that your cat refuses food, no matter what you feed it (treats included), take your kitty to a vet. If you give your cat some space, hoping that whatever it has will pass, you risk worsening its condition, which can lead to unwanted consequences.

Also Read: Cat Not Eating Much But Acting Normal

What You Can You Do At Home
If Your Cat Is Hiding And Not Eating

The most important thing in such situations is to talk to your veterinarian.

Here are some simple short-term steps that may help you until you talk to the vet:

  • Feed your cat something that promotes its appetite – you can also add tuna juice or broth to their food
  • Warm up your cat’s food if it’s cold
  • Give your cat some alone time – a cat that hides wants to be left alone
  • Buy devices that can help your cat relax if you suspect stress

Summing up

If you notice your cat is not eating and it’s hiding more than usual, you should always be concerned. It could just be a sign of stress and anxiety, but it may also be a medical problem that needs to be treated.

You can monitor your cat to see if it starts eating in 12-48 hours. If not, you should schedule a vet’s appointment as soon as possible.

Cats should not go without food for longer than 48 hours, so your main concern is getting your kitty to eat. However, hiding may also be a good indicator of illness and should always be taken seriously.

Vet’s Comment

Seeing our pets suffering is one of the worst experiences!

Never let your cat get to the point where you can’t do anything to save his life!

Hiding is not normal behavior for cats unless your cat is very shy or there have been changes to its environment.

A cat that suddenly chooses to hide often suffers from medical problems that can be life-threatening if not detected and treated promptly.

There are many reasons why a cat may refuse food and start hiding. The most important thing is to get to know your cat and realize in advance when something is wrong with it and act accordingly!

– Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM

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