Skip to main content

Why do cats squeeze themselves into small spaces? It’s actually quite simple

You’ve probably seen it many times. Your cat picks out a box, a container, or just a spot in your home that’s entirely too small for him. Seemingly blissfully ignorant of just how large he is and how small that space is, your cat then works on cramming himself into that tiny space. He overflows it, looks completely uncomfortable, and yet insists on sitting there, or even on lying down and taking a catnap. You might pass this behavior off as your cat being silly or a little bit crazy, but there’s an actual reason why cats love small spaces so much — and it makes perfect sense.

Why small spaces make sense

Your cat might look uncomfortable to you, but when he crawls into a small space, he’s actually following his instincts and feels quite content. According to Pleasant Plains Animal Hospital, cats might seek out small spaces because they feel secure. In the wild, cats need to protect themselves from predators, and small, enclosed spaces make this easier. Cats tend to feel safer in enclosed spaces, especially when they have at least three sides. A top to the enclosure will make your cat feel even more secure.

These spots may also be appealing to cats because they’re cozy. When your cat is curled up in a small space, he can rely on his body heat to keep him comfortable. When he feels warm and secure, he’s likely to curl up and take a nap, which is why you’ll so often find your cat sleeping in these locations.

Cat sitting inside of an open suitcase
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A note about small space safety

While there’s often no harm in letting your cat crawl into these little spots for a nap, he could end up in some risky situations while seeking out a cozy, secure-feeling spot. Sometimes the warmth of appliances, like portable heaters, can attract your cat, and he might try to crawl up into or under an appliance like a radiator. The same is true of warm car engines, which can be very inviting to outdoor cats in the winter.

To keep your cat safe, consider blocking off access to any dangerous places in your home that might be tempting to him. You can install pet gates or pet barriers around appliances like furnaces.

Putting your car in the garage and closing the garage door can help to keep cats from crawling up into your car’s engine. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of loudly knocking on your car’s hood to scare out any hiding cats before your start the vehicle.

Black kitten peering out of an enclosed cat bed
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to give your cat cozy sleeping spots

If your cat seeks out small spaces to sleep, you can help him out by creating some cozy spots just for him. One of the easiest ways to do this is to collect a few used shipping boxes. You can add fleece blankets to the boxes to make them more comfortable, and place them in warm areas of your house, like by a window where the sun shines onto the floor.

You can also buy cat beds that have more of an enclosed structure. You might find that your cat really appreciates the type of bed that is entirely enclosed with a top, and that has only a small hole for an entrance. Not only are these beds very private, but they also tend to be warm areas. You can add a blanket or even opt for a bed that’s heated to keep your cat extra cozy during cold weather.

To each cat his own

If you carefully watch your cat over time, he’ll probably show you the types of spaces that are most appealing to him. Some cats love traditional cat beds, while others might choose to seek out little spots of their own in your house. Your cat might also decide that he prefers spaces that are out of reach of other pets in the home, or that are located in quiet rooms where he can sleep without being disturbed. If you do decide to create sleeping areas for your cat, make sure that you keep them well distanced from any heating elements in the winter. By moving these spaces around and experimenting with different designs, you can determine what your cat loves and uses the most.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Why do dogs hate cats? The truth behind this age-old grudge
Find out what's behind the dog and cat rivalry that's been around forever
A black pug and a tabby cat sit on a table

Even if you've never been around dogs or cats, you've probably heard about their rough relationship. Cats and dogs are rivals at best and enemies at worst -- right? It sure seems that way when there are thousands of stories and even videos of dogs and cats not getting along. Whether you've witnessed a dog-cat chase with your own eyes or have heard your pup barking at the neighbor's cat at all times of the day, it's only natural to wonder, "Why do dogs hate cats?"
Some dogs couldn't care less if a feline friend stopped by for a visit -- that's true -- but plenty of other pups would go positively bananas. So what's the difference?

Why do dogs hate cats?
While it's easy to assume that dogs and cats "hate" one another because of their vast differences, it's a bit more complicated than that. Even dogs that regularly chase cats don't do so out of malice or hate. It's an instinctual thing!

Read more
What does it mean when cats purr? It’s more scientific than them just being happy
Cat purring is thought to indicate happiness, but it can have a few different meanings
Black and white cat lying on a cat bed on a sofa

Chances are, you've heard that purring is a sign that a cat is happy. And in many cases, that's true. Cats often purr during activities they enjoy, like being petted in that hard-to-reach spot or settling down for a nap in the sun. However, purring can have different meanings and causes than just indicating happiness.

Scientists are still working to understand this feline behavior fully, and new theories about the reasons behind purring continue to evolve. So, why do cats purr, and what does your cat's purr really mean? New information may be coming out every day, but the information that we already have can help you better understand your cat.

Read more
Why do cats have 9 lives? The origins of the saying
Here's what we found out about cats and their many lives
A tabby cat looks up eith blue eyes

Whether you've lived with cats in your home all your life or have never even gotten close enough to pet one, there are a few feline facts, myths, and stereotypes that you're bound to have heard. Cat characters in TV shows and movies are great at perpetuating this knowledge, though no one can confirm or deny these feline fun facts and generalizations quite like the pets we know and love.

It doesn't take long to learn that cats can have a huge attitude, for example, or that they don't always get along well with other animals like dogs do. It's easy to understand why cat owners and feline fans alike can get caught up in these stereotypes. But at the same time, other feline fun facts -- like why cats are said to have 9 lives -- remain shrouded in mystery.
Until now! We've done some digging into the origin and accuracy of the old saying: "Why do cats have 9 lives," and here's what we uncovered.

Read more