Archive from March, 2012

“What are you doing in THERE?” – Why cats hide in strange places.

Mar 31, 2012 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Two glowing eyes peer out at you from under the bed. A paw darts out from under a chair to grab your ankle as you walk by. Your house becomes strangely empty when the cat carrier appears. Why do cats hide?

Despite myths to the contrary, there are a lot of normal, healthy reasons that cats may find a hiding spot. Some of these reasons include curiosity, comfort, or even boredom. Cats may also hide due to stress, age-related changes or illness.

A cat’s high level of curiosity about her surroundings drives her to explore new nooks and crannies, especially empty bags and boxes, or suitcases and garment bags. That drawer you left open while you reached for a stack of shirts to put away? Check behind it before you close it, because a cat may be settling down in the darkness. Did you leave the dryer door open? Check to make sure there are no furry feet massaging your toasty warm towels into position for a nap before you close the door and press “Start”. Did you turn away from the refrigerator while the door was open? Check for paw prints in the butter!

When curling up for a nap, they will also often find a quiet place where they are less noticeable, and may prefer a shoebox, laundry basket or paper bag. It is a confident, well-adjusted and happy cat that sprawls across the couch, or sleeps belly-up in the middle of the floor. Pregnant females looking for a nesting spot may be found hiding in strange spots, or may choose to have their kittens in previously unexplored areas – such as behind a large piece of furniture.

Cats may hide in some specific spots because of the temperature. They may seek out spots near air vents to benefit from a warm or cool breeze. They may curl up in the sink or bathtub to cool off, or worm their way under a pillow or blanket to warm up. The perfect afternoon sunbeam may end behind a chair or under a table.

Your cat also may hide because they are lying in wait for a game to begin. Some cats will find a hiding spot near a high traffic area in the house and then launch themselves out at unsuspecting feet. What could be more entertaining?

Sometimes, hiding can be your cat’s way of “getting away from it all”. When something in the house becomes too stressful, the flight or flight survival response kicks in, and many cats will choose flight before a fight. What causes stress in an animal that can sleep up to 20 hours a day? A cat’s surroundings can be downright terrifying! That brand new kitten you got? It’s gone and stirred up a whole mess of stress by using the same litterbox! The new baby in the house has totally rearranged the household sleeping schedule. The party last week interfered with kitty’s squirrel-watching schedule. The new couch smells funny. And now that your oldest child has gone off to college, the bed where kitty used to sleep is now empty. If two cats in the household don’t get along well, the more timid one may absent himself in order to avoid a confrontation. Oh, and one more thing…ever since that last horrifying trip in the cat carrier, you’ve been shoving things down your cat’s throat twice a day. Who wouldn’t hide?

Cats plagued by fleas may hide in elevated hiding spots, trying to get away from the critters in the carpets. (More information about flea control from Dr. Sundahl.)

Cats deprived of a healthy variety of changes during early growth development may never develop the normal curious and tolerant behavior expected in healthy young cats. This is often true of feral kittens that are trapped and socialized. Others will adapt, but slowly. (See Bodaishin’s story) On the other hand, some cats are simply naturally, genetically, timid cats and not likely to change.

If your cat is a timid cat, and all indications of illness have been eliminated, then behavior modification and desensitization could be considered to help the cat better adjust to the home environment. Occasionally, antianxiety drug therapy may be helpful in getting the timid cat to overcome his fears and become more outgoing.

As cats age, they may develop subtle changes in personality. It is important to determine whether these changes are normal or related to health issues. Some cats even can become senile or suffer from dementia, and brain tumors are not unheard of in cats, all of which can cause cats to become more antisocial or hide more often.

So how do you tell if your cat is just doing normal cat things, or if it is an indication your cat isn’t feeling well? If your cat is normally a social animal, making the rounds of the couches and chairs, reminding you that it’s time for dinner, and cuddling with you in bed at night and you notice that he is choosing to nap in the closet instead of eating dinner, and he curls up under the bed instead of on top of the covers, then you might have something to be concerned about. Cats are creatures of habit, and a change in their normal routine is something noteworthy. However, if your cat has always been the type to sit behind the couch instead of perching on the backrest, it is probably just your cat’s normal, shy personality.

If you are concerned about the amount of time your cat spends hiding, the location that they are hiding, or have noticed a recent change in behavior, your best course of action is to call your veterinarian for advice.

Dr Steven Bailey

Dr. Steven J. Bailey founded Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Science and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in June of 1986. After graduation, Dr. Bailey practiced emergency medicine for 8 years prior to establishing Exclusively Cats. Dr. Bailey is one of two veterinarians in the state of Michigan and the only veterinarian in Southeastern Michigan that has been board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners as a Feline Specialist (ABVP). His special interests include complicated medical/surgical cases as well as critical care, advanced dentistry, and behavioral medicine. Dr. Bailey is an active member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), he is a current council member of the Southeastern Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (SEMVMA). He is also an Associate Editor of the Feline Internal Medicine Board on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), invited member of VMG #18 (The only feline exclusive Veterinary Management Group) and MOM’s group (Macomb/Oakland Management Group). In his free time, Dr. Bailey is an avid kayaker (some may even call him “obsessed”) and an instructor in both canoe and kayaking sports. He also enjoys running and spending time with his family. Dr. Bailey and his wife Liz have 2 adult children, Christopher and Kayla, 3 cats, Tic Tic, Sapphire and Lacey, and one dog, Charlotte.

Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital

6650 Highland Road

Waterford, MI 48327

Phone: 248-666-5287

Fax ‎206-333-1135


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Poisonous Plants

Mar 29, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

When I think about poisonous plants and cats, I immediately think about Rocky, and how he survived lily poisoning.   His owner, Susan had come home from work and found him happily lounging on the rug next to a lily he had taken from a bouquet. He had never bothered flowers before, so Susan had thought the lilies would be safe.  Lucky for Rocky, Susan knew that this exposure could be toxic and that early intervention was critical.  Rocky was hospitalized and after several days of aggressive intravenous fluids and supportive care, Rocky went home to a safe, lily-free home, with mild, but manageable kidney damage. What a lucky guy!

Lilies are perhaps the most common and the most poisonous plant your cat may encounter.  All parts of the lily are poisonous, including the yellow-brown pollen that so easily gets on your clothing (or your cat if he brushes up against the flowers).  Treatment is successful only if started early.

While cats tend to be more cautious than dogs in regards to what they eat, they often surprise us by eating unusual things.   It is important to be aware of what dangers may lay in and around your house and how you can best keep your cat safe. Remember that since most cats are good groomers, they swallow particles from most things they touch.  In other words, whatever they touch, they swallow.  In addition, if your cat chews or eats part of a plant, they will also be swallowing any fertilizer and/or pesticides that were applied to the plant. Know that even if your cat looks fine, exposure to certain plants or other toxins requires early intervention for successful treatment. While many plants (such as Aloe) will usually cause obvious symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and lethargy) fairly quickly, for some toxins, by the time a cat shows symptoms of being sick, treatment may come too late.

Other common plants that are poisonous to cats when eaten include:  Marijuana, Sago Palm (including the seeds and nuts), Tulip Bulbs, Azalea, Oleander, Castor Bean, Cyclamen (especially the root) and Yew.

When looking to cat-proof your house (and yard), consult an expert source for information on poisonous plants. The ASPCA’s website has a very complete list at  You can also reach the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24 hours a day at 888-426-4435 (there is a fee for the consultation).  Please call your vet immediately if you think that your cat may have been exposed to a poisonous plant.

Dr Diana Lafer

Dr. Diana Lafer founded Cats Limited in 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Wesleyan University and her veterinary degree from Cornell University. Dr. Lafer has a cat (Sparky), and a dog (Lucy). She enjoys spending time with her daughters, horseback riding, skiing, hiking, participating in triathlons, and volunteering for the Lakeville Pony Club.

Cats Limited Hospital
1260 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110

Phone: (860) 561-9885

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