There are many stories about cats that hide away when they are sick and some of them even vanish altogether much to the dismay of their owners. Old cats have been known to simply disappear although not all of them do. Many people believe that when a cat does this it's because they are so ill they want to be somewhere quiet and out of the way which is often where they die. However, is there any truth in the fact that cats vanish when they know they are going to die?
In a book called "Cat World – A Feline Encyclopedia" written by Desmond Morris, the author explains that cats don't understand the concept of death and as such when they go away to hide, it is simply because they are feeling very unwell. When a cat is sick, their instincts tell them they are more vulnerable to predators and therefore need to keep out of sight in order to survive. In the wild, a vulnerable cat has many larger predators all of which are there waiting to pounce on the weak, sick and vulnerable. If a cat is sick, they appear weak so they become a target. The instinct is so strong it remains a characteristic of our lovely domesticated moggies!
Pregnant cats will look for a quiet place that's well out of the way so they can give birth to their kittens in safety out of sight of any predators. Very often they will tuck themselves in a wardrobe, under a bath or anywhere they feel a predator would not be able to find and get at them once they have given birth to their kittens.
There are other theories out there as to why a cat likes to hide away when they are feeling unwell, one of which is because they just want to be on their own. They search out a place that's dark and quiet so they can curl up and sleep without being disturbed, after all sleep is often the best way to recuperate from an illness. Many people who are under weather like to be left on their own, so the same can be said of our feline friends when they're feeling unwell.
However, not every cat goes off to hide when they are feeling sick or dying because many of our four legged little feline friends want to be close to the people they love and trust when they are sick. They spend most of their time sleeping quietly, often with another pet they have shared their home with for a number of years or maybe all of their lives. So it would be fair to say that although some cats do go off other cats might prefer to stay in close proximately to their owners.
An injured cat will also hide themselves away so they can recover. There are many stories of owners finding their cats tucked away somewhere in the garden and sometimes in the house after they have been hit by a car. If their injuries are not too severe, they reappear after a certain amount of time much to the relief of their worried owners. However, if they have been very badly hurt, a cat does not hide away because they are going to die, but rather because they are injured and their instincts tell them they are vulnerable to predators and need to stay out of sight, sadly because of their injuries they do not recover.
Very often a cat has a "preferred" spot to hide away in whether it's in the garden or in the house. It could be in the airing cupboard, in a wardrobe or some spot that's out of the way as long as it's a place that's quiet, you very often find them curled up fast asleep. If you find that your pussy cat spends a lot of the time hiding away and not coming out at meal times or to go outside, you need to check them over because it could be they are sick or have been injured in some way or another.
You may find they spit at you when you try to pick them up which is really out of character and this is a sure sign they are in pain. You would need to get them checked over by your vet as soon as you can so a correct diagnose can be made and subsequently offer your cat the right treatment.
If you can't find your cat, there could be several reasons why they have gone missing and not necessarily because they are unwell or injured. Some cats are real wanderers and will quite often get themselves into a "fix" which they can't get out of that easily. A good example being the classic "a cat stuck up a tree" scenario. You should start your search in obvious places both inside and outside the home where you know your moggy likes to tuck themselves away when they feel the need to.
If you can't find them, you should make up some "missing posters" and then place these around the neighbourhood making sure they are plastic coated so they don't get ruined if it rains. You should put your mobile telephone number on the poster so that people who have seen your cat will be able to contact you. It is never a good idea to put your address or house telephone number on posters - just in case. You can also publish "missing" messages on various pet websites and it's always a good idea to let your vet know and ask if they will put a poster up in their surgery too.