Why Does My Pet Hide from Me?

Written by Oxbow

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June 22, 2021🞄

The greatest joy of being a pet parent is spending time interacting and sharing affection with our beloved furry companions.  Whether playing with your rabbit on the floor with their favorite toy, offering your cheeky chin their treat of choice, or simply snuggling up with your piggie on the couch enjoying some quality time over Netflix, there’s nothing better than time spent in one another’s company.

Given the abundant joy that the simple presence of our pets brings us each day, it can come as a surprise to new pet parents the first time their furry friend retreats to their habitat to hide away.  No one loves rejection, and it can be especially disappointing when the perceived rejection comes at the paws of our favorite furry friends.  The good news is that your pet’s decision to retreat for the comforts of a dark, quiet place in many cases has less to do with you than their engrained instincts as a prey species.

Hey, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away!?!  The Power of the Prey Instinct

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.  “It’s not you, it’s me.”  When it comes to your small pet’s decision to hide, this cringe-y old cliché is actually quite accurate much of the time.

As prey species, animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are instinctually wired to hide to escape threats in their native environment.  And, while there are not likely any coyotes lurking in our home (we hope!), your small pet remains highly attuned to perceived threats or general stressors in their environment at all times.  The sound of a chair being pulled out on a tile floor may not make you duck for cover (you brave human, you), but it could very well be enough to throw off your rabbit’s entire afternoon.

So, what does this mean when it comes to your relationship with your pet in your home environment?  We all want to provide a safe and enriching environment for our loved ones, and the good news is that there are some important (and easy) ways to support your pet’s hiding instincts.

How to Support Your Pet’s Instinctual Desire to Hide

Provide Multiple Hideouts in Predictable Locations

When it comes to hiding, your small pet is likely looking for a safe, dark place when they can feel protected from the stress of a perceived threat or even just the busyness of the day.  To facilitate this desire, it’s essential to have multiple hiding options in easy-to-access locations.

Many quality habitats (like our Large and Extra-Large Habitats) come with a built-in hide space.  Be sure to keep these areas filled with ample fresh, clean bedding for an added level of comfort and coziness.  While this type of built-in provides a great hiding space, we always advise providing several options to suit your pet’s mood or location.

Choose an All-Hay Hideaway

If your small pet is an herbivore, you’re likely aware that hay should make up at least 70% of their daily diet and should be available 24/7 in unlimited amounts.  We love providing tips on creative and fun ways to encourage your herbivore to eat hay, but perhaps our favorite option is equally convenient and custom-made for hiding.  Our Timothy Club Bungalows make an ideal hide space for a variety of small pets and can be placed anywhere your pet enjoys escaping the stressors in their environment.  Sounds pretty great, right?  We’ve actually saved the best part for last!  All Timothy Club accessories are made of 100% hand-woven Timothy hay, making them completely edible and thoroughly enriching.

Comfort Minded?  Think Fleece!

Small pet parents have long sung the praises of fleece.  Not only is fleece super soft for supreme comfort, but it comes in fun patterns and colors and is easy to clean for that fresh out of the washing machine feeling.  Our Fleece Hammocks are ideal for smaller species or check out our Corner Fleece Hideout for a fun hide option that fits conveniently in the corner of your pet’s habitat.

Woven Hideouts for Easy, Stress-Free Access

While we generally recommend providing your pet with their space when hiding, we understand there are certain times when you may want to briefly check on your pet to ensure all is well.  In these moments, a hideout with an open bottom allows you to take a quick peek at your pet without creating added stress by jostling them around in their safe space.  Our woven hideouts come in a variety of sizes to meet the needs of multiple species.

Still, Concerned About Your Pet’s Hiding Habits?  Assess the Environment!

Even with the understanding that hiding is an instinctual behavior of small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs, what if you feel that your furry friend hides out more than normal?  No one knows your pet better than you, and you should always trust your instincts when it comes to your pets’ health and well-being.

First Things First: Rule out Injury or Illness

It’s important to note that underlying illness or injury can potentially cause pets to be less active and spend more time hiding.  If you think there’s any chance your pet could be dealing with an injury or suffering from illness, see your trusted veterinarian right away.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your pets’ health and well-being.

In addition to spending more time hiding or inactive, be sure to rule out these other signs of underlying illness or injury. 

Identify Stressful Triggers or Environmental Changes

Small animals are highly perceptive to changes in their environment, and these changes are not always obvious or even perceptible to you as a pet parent.  If you feel that your pet is suddenly more inclined to hide than normal, taking a quick survey to identify and rule out any stressful triggers or environmental triggers.

Some changes to your pet’s environment that could create stress and lead them to hide away more frequently could include:

  • Has the temperature suddenly changed in your home?
    • Small pets are highly perceptive to any changes to their environment, including temperature.  Ideal temperatures for small pet species vary, and all animals are likely to notice even small to moderate fluctuations in temperature.  Learn more about the ideal temperature range for your pet and be sure to always keep your pets in mind when adjusting the thermostat at home.
  • Have you recently added to or rearranged your living space?
    • Small animals are creatures of habit and routine.  While it’s true that mixing up elements of our pet’s habitat can provide mental enrichment, larger-scale rearranging of your home environment can be a cause of stress for some pets.
  • Are there any new noises or other new stimuli?
    • New sounds or stimuli of any kind can be a cause of alarm and stress for pets of any kind and prey species in particular.  Always do your best to limiting loud, sudden noises that could be a cause of stress for your little loved one.
  • Has a new family member (furry or otherwise) entered your family?
    • This may seem like an obvious one, but there’s no bigger change for any family than a new member entering the equation.  If you’re in the process of bonding pets, for example, it’s perfectly normal (and healthy) for all parties involved to spend more time hiding away to rest and relax.

We all benefit from healthy amounts of rest and relaxation in our lives, and this is especially true for our furry friends.  Hiding is an instinctual behavior for all prey species makes and it’s our responsibility as pet parents to support your little loved ones by providing multiple options for hiding out and assessing the home environment to ensure external stressors are kept to a minimum.

The next time your pet hops into their bungalow to get away from the hustle and bustle of their environment, take comfort in knowing that they’re not giving you the cold shoulder; they’re likely just practicing a perfectly healthy and natural behavior!

Learn More

How to Support Your Pet’s Instinctual Hiding Behaviors Video

Top 10 Toys for Guinea Pigs