Peekaboo – I See Mew and Other Hide and Seek Cat Behaviors

Cat under the curtain? What cat?

Peekaboo – that simple form of play with an infant where someone hides their face, then pops back into view, causing the infant amusement – is a fundamental, universal concept in an infant’s inability to understand object permanence. Swiss clinical psychologist, Jean Piaget, known for his pioneering work in child development conducted experiments with infants, concluding object performance was typically achieved at eight to nine months of age. I bring this up because cats also have a peekaboo mindset and Jazmine reminded me of this the other day when she was hiding behind a sheer curtain, convinced I couldn’t see her.

Why do cats do that? It’s actually quite simple – it’s all about their wild side. Your cat doesn’t realize she can be seen through the curtain, so for her, the fabric provides a safe and concealed spot to hide while still being able to keep tabs on her surroundings (i.e., her turf). This stems from a cat’s instinctual need to define her territory and stalk, hunt, and kill prey. The curtain becomes a camouflage bush come to life from the jungle of your bedroom, so to speak.

Central to Piaget’s object performance theory is the “out of sight, out of mind” concept, which Jazmine seems to believe.

Jazmine catches on that she might have been discovered – you can tell by her frozen, “deer-in-the-headlights” look..

Jazmine gives it one last half-hearted (and very poor attempt) to remain hidden!

That’s also why you might feel a swipe at your ankles from underneath your bed skirt when you’re innocently walking by from a cat who clearly thinks he’s invisible (despite the tell-tale swishing of his tail in plain view), or you’ll see your cat hiding behind a door or underneath a blanket. In a multi-cat home, this is especially true. It’s not necessarily that your cat is hiding from you, but probably more so your cat is hiding from a fellow cat-mate, ready to pounce with a surprise attack at any moment, defending what he considers his territory!

Just like children, cats also like to play hide and seek, often with their own toys. You’ll find a stuffed toy dropped in your purse or one of your shoes (or maybe even a real mouse or bug). Or maybe you’ll find toys stashed under your couch, or in a box, or whatever other clever place your cat designates as safe.

Every time I move the couch to vacuum I find Kizmet’s stash of toys. As you can tell, I don’t vacuum much, and he’s quite possessive of his “kill.”

The reasoning behind all of this behavior is actually quite ingenious. Your cat basically lives within the confines of your indoor home. They get bored, so to create an environment suited to their natural hunt and prey instincts, aka hide and seek, they have to improvise with items around the house. Your cat is just doing his best to be a cat with the tools at his disposal.

One of the most nefarious items in our household is my left flipflop. Zee is particularly concerned with it and will drag it to various spots in the house for me to find later.

As a responsible cat guardian, to help keep his mind sharp and body fit, consider providing him with new and interesting toys to play with. Surprise him by tucking something near his scratching post so he can “find” it. Or give him an empty box out of the blue to hide in, or get a puzzle toy to put treats inside so retrieving them can simulate the act of hunting and killing prey.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but this is the whole gang enjoying the challenge of getting treats out of a puzzle dispenser.

I don’t know about you, but I think it would be quite difficult to live with the same old, same old 24/7/365 – no wonder our cats are so clever about inventing ways to keep things more interesting! And out of curiosity, how many of you have a cat that will actually play hide and seek with you in the physical sense? Both Zee and his son, Rolz, love to do that with me. If I make eye contact with either one of them and then quickly run off, it’s their signal to chase after me to find me. I typically hide behind a door and when I’m found, I get the most endearing meow greeting of, “Ha ha, I got you!”

My hide and seek buddies – Rolz and Zee.

Happy Sunday dear friends – if you’d like to learn more about the fascinating behavior of peekaboo/hide and seek in cats, as well as to read some entertaining stories from other cat lovers about these habits, please consider reading Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Humans Who Love Them, which recently won three awards at the Cat Writers’ Association Annual Awards Communications Contest, including Best Book/Other Category, the Animal-Human Bond Award from, and the coveted President’s Award which represents the best of the best from all entries.

Now, I best run to locate Zoey…However will I find her?

I need some help…Has anyone seen Zoey?

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  1. Charles Huss says:

    Our cats crouch down low before attacking another cat in the house like they think they can’t be seen and it’s a surprise attack. To me, the posture gives away their intention. Perhaps the cats don’t notice it the same way.

  2. Being a working Princess, I don’t play that much in this Palace mainly because I hunt most days and nights. But it is so interesting to see that us cats are actually able to stimulate ourselves when the need arises and also adapt and play with our humans and surroundings like human children, and adults would if in our situation.
    Purrs. ERin

  3. such a fun post!! Cody loves to “hide” under a blanket and ambush Dakota, but it’s funny, he never swipes at our ankles and Angel Bobo ALWAYS did!

  4. I love your Sunday selfie’s. I particularly love the gang trying to get treats out of the toy.
    Yael from Playing In Catnip

  5. speedyrabbit says:

    My mummy’s old cat Smokey would hide between to couches in a little gap and would pounce on mummy’s Springer Spaniel,she said it was a game they played every night.Smokey would land on Boots head and boots would shake him off and then squat him under his paw and cover Smokey in doggy slobber this would end up in smokey running off all wet with his tail in the air……hehehe sounds quite funny,xx Speedy

  6. jmuhj says:

    Tarifa is our resident predator extraordinaire. I have two big pots of sparkle balls on the coffee table, and she jumps up there, choosing a favorite, then announcing her brave hunting catch before depositing it near where I am. Usually she will do this a second time, taking a second favorite sparkle ball and announcing its demise before placing it near the first. She is an excellent provider and I am sure we would all starve without her hunting prowess!

  7. Roby Sweet says:

    Interesting! Our Paisley likes to drag her wand toys around the house. Of all the types of toys they have, those are the only ones she’ll move to a new location during the day.

  8. Ellen Pilch says:

    Very interesting. I always wondered why I find piles of toys in corners of the living room.

  9. meowmeowmans says:

    I love that cats entertain themselves and keep their instincts sharp like that!

  10. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    guyz…..what a grate post !!!! eye hid thiz week oh end frum de vacuum masheen, de food servizz gurl N eye all
    sew hid round de korner oh de wall when a turtle waz crossin de yard sew eye could spy on him….N eye due knot EVEN noe wear him came frum …ore wear him waz goin ! ~~~~~ ☺☺♥♥ tuna of moon

  11. We like to play peek-a-boo too. It’s like…if I can’t see you…you can’t see me, right??? 😉

  12. We love those puzzle containers, they are so much fun to get the treats out of!!

    Happy Sunday Selfie!

  13. Peek-a-boo, we see you ! We love that game too. Zorro is a huge fan of puzzle containers, but Pixie doesn’t care much. Purrs

  14. Brian frum says:

    Y’all really do look terrific, hiding or not! Have a fun Saturday everyone!