Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. But it can take some time for them to stop being scared of you and trust you. Before you can get your kitten to trust you, they need to come out of hiding.
This article covers common questions related to a new kitten being scared and hiding, and tips to make them feel more comfortable, faster.
Why is my kitten hiding?
Your kitten is hiding because they feel unsafe out in the open and aren’t comfortable with their new surroundings yet. If they’re really scared, they may even be in survival mode; thinking you’re a predator and the space outside of their hiding spot isn’t safe.
Your kitten is in an unfamiliar setting around an unfamiliar person (or people), experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells.
Just imagine if you were thrown into the same scenario, then imagine the people surrounding you were giants and didn’t speak your language.
On top of that, cats are sensitive to change. They’ve likely been taken away from everything they’re familiar with and plopped into a setting where nothing is familiar.
As much as you want to pick them up, pet them, play with them, etc. it’s not the right time to do so when they’re scared and hiding.
You need to reduce their fear before you can begin bonding with them.
In most cases, backing away and giving a kitten space is the first step.
With that in mind, the following tips will be more effective.
How to get a scared kitten out of hiding
To get a scared kitten to come out of hiding you first need to reduce their anxiety and help them see there’s nothing to fear. The following tips will help your kitten feel more comfortable and encourage them to come out of hiding.
1. Let your kitten hide
As much as you want them to come out, it’s important to respect what they need. They’re scared and feel the safest when hiding, so do your best to support them.
Hiding is fairly normal for a new cat in a new home. They just need time to adjust.
You can be in the room with them, but give them their space. Don’t try to coax them out.
They’ll feel comfortable faster if you let them move at their pace.
If the situation is more urgent and you need them to come out because they’re sick or hurt, try not to panic.
Move and act calmly to reduce your kitten’s stress levels. If they feel scared and stressed, they won’t feel comfortable coming out.
Try to leave them alone while you calmly and quietly gather things you need, such as their cage, a clean towel, treats, etc.
2. Create a small space
When you bring a new kitten home, you should have a “safe room” for them. This is a small room they can adjust to before exploring more territory.
A safe room should have everything a kitten needs:
- litter box
- a soft blanket to knead and sleep on
- places for them to safely hide or feel protected (e.g. a box)
- toys that are safe for kittens to play with when unsupervised (no wands or small things they could choke on)
- a stuffed toy that’s a similar size to them
If your kitten wasn’t first introduced into a safe room, try to create a makeshift safe room around where they’re hiding.
For example, if they’re hiding under the couch, try to turn your living room into a safe room. Keep other people and animals out of that room, bring their food, water, and litter box into the room, and make it a calm quiet space.
On the other hand, if they’re under a bed, place food, water, and a litter box in the bedroom and close the door. This will keep the space nice and quiet and make the kitten feel safer.
An object such as a box or a tunnel can make your kitten feel safe, without having to hide under the couch or bed.
You can grab the one we have here:
It folds up neatly into a flat disk if you’re short on storage space.
3. Put food, water, and a litter box close to them
If possible, put their food bowl, water bowl, and litter box close the where your kitten is hiding so they feel comfortable enough to get a nibble of food without the threat of being grabbed.
A litter box should always be a good distance away from food and water, but keeping them a bit closer is okay during this time. But do try to keep their litter box a few feet away from where they’ll drink and eat (e.g. the litter box at one end of the couch they’re hiding under and their food and water at the other).
Put these items as close to your kitten as possible and keep your distance. If you try placing food next to you in an attempt to get them to come close to you, they may not eat.
Your kitten needs to eat, drink, and use the potty, so make it as easy as possible for them.
4. Reduce stimulation
Your new kitten is feeling overwhelmed. What may seem insignificant to us, such as a child’s footsteps running down the hall or sounds coming from a TV, can be terrifying to a small kitten.
- Turn off any music or the television
- Speak in a quiet voice
- Walk quietly
- Don’t slam doors or run noisy appliances
- Keep small children and other pets away
- Close windows (if possible) to reduce outside noise and smells
- Remove mirrors (if a kitten has never seen their reflection, it can scare them)
- Give them space
- Don’t try to play with your kitten
Although toys can be a good tool for distracting a kitten, when they’re scared and hiding, toys can add to their stress. It’s one more moving object they feel they need to keep their eye on.
Once your kitten comes out of hiding and feels comfortable eating, drinking, and using the litter box, they’re out of fight-flight-freeze mode. This is a better time to play with them and help them feel more relaxed and at ease around you.
5. Leave the room
If your kitten seems more stressed when you’re around, try giving them more space by leaving the room. If their eyes widen, they breathe heavier and faster, move away from you, etc. those are signs your presence is causing more stress.
As much as you want to be around your kitten and make sure they’re okay, they may just need some time alone.
They’re animals and their animal instincts are kicking in. They may perceive you as a predator and are going to be on high alert as long as you’re around.
Don’t worry, this phase won’t last forever. But it’s important to honor what your kitten needs at this time.
If you’ve been able to create a safe room for them, try leaving the room for an hour or two.
When you do go back in, be sure to open the door quietly and slowly. Bursting into the room can undo the progress they’ve made.
If you’re not able to leave the room (i.e. they’re hiding in the main living space), then try to give them as much space as possible.
Simply diverting your attention away from them can sometimes be enough.
6. Limit human interaction
If there are multiple people in your home, designate one person to check on the kitten periodically. When a kitten is overwhelmed, you want them to get comfortable with one space and one person at a time.
Having multiple people in their space or a new person trying to coax them out every hour will only overwhelm them.
Also, hold off on any visitors. You want to show off your cute new kitten to friends and family, but let the kitten get adjusted first.
Once they’re comfortable in your home and around household members, it will be important to introduce them to new people so they become comfortable around strangers (essential for vet visits or pet sitters).
7. Bring a calm energy
Animals (just like babies and children) can pick up on your energy. If you’re speaking to them in a calm voice but inside you’re stressed, worried, and maybe even frustrated, your kitten will be able to feel that.
Before you go into your kitten’s safe room or the space in which they’re hiding, take a deep breath and center yourself. Try to clear your mind and think happy thoughts; like how much fun you’ll have with your kitten once they’re feeling more comfortable.
If you’re into meditation, you may even consider meditating in the same room as your kitten, or before you go near them.
Watch this amazing video to see how a calm mind can positively impact animal behavior:
8. Let them come to you
When your kitten does come out, it’s very important to leave them be.
Let your kitten approach you and don’t make any sudden movements or try to grab them. Try to remain still until they come to you.
Place your hands to your side and rest them on the ground, couch, or flat surface next to you. Let the kitten approach you a smell you while you sit still.
Let your kitten lead the way.
>> If they’re keeping their distance, keep your distance as well.
>> If they’re rubbing against you, gently pet them.
>> If they’re starting to play, pick up a toy and play with them.
If a kitten has been hiding for hours, forcing them to do anything against their will could undo their progress.
You want them to feel safe enough to stay out of their hiding spot and explore more.
If you need to pick them up to put them into a new safe room, do so very gently and calmly. Don’t grab for them the second they come out from under the couch.
And once they’re in their new safe room, give them more time to adjust so they begin to trust you. Close the door and let them wander around on their own.
9. Slowly expand their safe space
When your kitten comes out of hiding, don’t immediately abandon all of the best practices you’ve put into place.
If they’ve been hiding in a safe room, keep them in that safe room until they seem completely relaxed in it and around you when you’re in the room with them. That may be a matter of hours, days, or weeks.
When it’s time to let them wander outside their safe room, try to keep the space they can wander limited.
That may mean closing doors to other bedrooms, bathrooms, the basement, etc.
And when you let them out of the safe room, create a quiet environment so they don’t get startled by something and go back into hiding.
10. Add calming scents
You may find a pheromone calming spray, diffuser, or collar help to calm your cat.
I’ve used them and will say, it won’t work miracles. It will most likely help your cat feel calmer, but it’s not going to turn a feral cat into a lap cat.
Also keep in mind, if there were pets in your home prior to bringing your new kitten home, there may be smells that are making them feel uneasy. You may not notice them, but cats have a keen sense of smell.
If you know (or think) a previous pet has peed around the house, you may consider buying a UV flashlight to find urine stains, and an enzyme cleaner to remove them.
Regular soap and water, or vinegar, will not fully remove pet smells. Your kitten will still be able to smell the urine and may think it’s a good place for them to pee.
How long will a new kitten hide?
A new kitten will typically only hide for a few hours, as long as the environment is welcoming. If they’re in a noisy, busy space with other animals, it may take several days.
If the kitten comes from a feral mother, an intimidating environment (e.g. a noisy shelter), or a situation that taught them not to trust humans, it can take a kitten several weeks before they feel comfortable being out in the open around humans.
When we brought our two kittens home, they were comfortable enough to come out of their safe room within a few hours. However, outside of that safe room, they only had another 600 square feet to explore. So they were fully comfortable in the space and around us within a few days.
Other family cats we’ve had in the past have taken days to come out of their safe space and feel comfortable around us. One, in particular, was a cat our family found on the streets. We’re not sure if she was feral or a stray that became less socialized. She became more comfortable around humans, but it did take weeks. She was always more timid than our other cats and seemed to be less comfortable around males.
Each situation is different so just be patient.
Every cat wants to be loved and you’ll see amazing improvements when you consistently provide them with it.
New kitten is hiding and meowing
A new kitten is hiding because they’re scared and meowing as a cry for their mom. Do everything you can to make your kitten feel safe.
Create a quiet, calm, environment for your scared kitten.
If they seem to meow more when you’re in the room, try giving them their space.
Make the room they’re in a safe room by closing it off, keeping children and other pets out, adding food, water, and a litter box, as well as any other items that would help them feel more comfortable. A soft blanket they can knead and sleep on, a box they sit in, etc.
If your kitten is meowing more when you leave the room, stay around them.
Although they’re hiding, your presence may make them feel more comfortable. If you can, sit on the ground so you’re close to their level and seem less intimidating. Keep your distance but talk to them in a soft soothing voice.
Sure, kittens don’t know what you’re saying but they can feel your energy. If you’re stressed, they’ll feel that.
Speak quietly, in a way you might speak to a baby you’re trying to get to sleep. Tell your kitten you love them, everything’s okay, and how much fun you guys are going to have together. It may feel silly but your kitten will appreciate it. Plus, it will help reduce your stress.
Be patient and don’t get frustrated.
As hard as it may be to listen to a kitten cry for several minutes (maybe even hours), they’re not meowing without a reason. Imagine if you were taken away from everything you know and placed into a new environment with a giant. You’d be scared too.
They will calm down and eventually come out. You just have to give them time.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful & your new kitten comes out of hiding soon. Congratulations on your new kitten! Give them lots of love, attention, and playtime and you’ll build an amazing bond with them over time.
You may also be interested in:
- How to Bond with a Kitten (the quickest way)
- How to Comfort a Scared Kitten (the best thing you can do)