Since the early 1980s when I first started working with clients on their cats’ behavior problems, a big part of my consultations covered the importance of creating an environment that allows the cat to engage in natural behaviors, provides security and strengthens the cat/human bond. The umbrella term for these things is commonly referred to as environmental enrichment.
One aspect of environmental enrichment that’s often misunderstood or overlooked is the need for the cat to have hiding places. When many people think of a cat hiding, they think of it as always being a negative. A cat who’s frightened will almost always look for a safe place to seek refuge and it’s important to do behavior modification to help the cat feel more secure, but it’s also crucial that hiding places be made available. If a cat doesn’t have a place to hide then he’ll remain stressed and frightened. Hiding places give the cat time to calm down and it’s then he can start to make the choice about when and how to venture out again. If he doesn’t have a place to hide, he’ll be less likely to feel relaxed enough to engage. The cat who feels backed in a corner without any choices is the cat who lashes out or bites. When given the choice, a fearful cat will almost always seek to run and hide. An important part of the behavior modification process with a frightened cat involves offering those hiding places.
Even if your cat isn’t normally fearful, it’s still important to make sure there are adequate hiding places available in your home. If you have a multiple cat household the availability of hiding places in all the different territories within the home will be absolutely crucial. There are times when a cat wants to be visible and there are times when he wants to be invisible. Solo cats, companion cats, confident ones and less confident ones will all appreciate the availability of secure hiding places. For some cats the hiding places may just be cozy napping areas out of reach of the family dog but for other kitties those hiding places may be viewed as sanctuaries from fear.