Why Do Cats Like Small Spaces?

“If I fits I sits” is the motto of every cat who has crammed his sleek body into a bag, shoe box, large bowl or basket. While their flexible body makes it easy for them to fit into confined spaces, the reasons behind it may surprise you.

IT’S PHYSICAL

Cats instinctively curl into a ball when they sleep to protect their belly. Unlike dogs, cats will not expose their under-belly the way canines do. This is because their bellies are the most vulnerable spot on the body and they prefer to keep them covered and safe from exposure. Cats tend to rest better by keeping their vital organs hidden, even inside the home.

Cats are also heat seekers who are on the lookout for a source of warmth. This is because cats were originally desert animals and are most comfortable at temperatures between 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, curling up in a small space to sleep could help your cat retain some of that body heat they love.

IT’S PSYCHOLOGICAL

On the psychological side of things, small snug places provide them with an escape from anything bothering them. Cats are not very good at resolving conflicts. Even though they can put on a show of aggression, they will retreat into hiding from the situation hoping it goes away. So in stressful times you may find your cat hiding in a box or under furniture in tight areas.

IT’S ENVIRONMENTAL

Cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel safer and more secure rather than being exposed to possible danger in wide open spaces. These small spots give cats the sort of quiet, peaceful environment they prefer even if the biggest threat is the vacuum cleaner. They're also well hidden from potential dangers, even if the only perceived danger in your home is the loud vacuum cleaner.

Close quarters may also remind cats of early kitten hood. Mother cats often seek out a calm, quiet, and relatively small space to birth and care for kittens. This instinct is why momma cats look for small boxes or confined spaces to give birth, rather than open areas. Most likely adult cats retain this comforting memory from kitten-hood when seeking out small spaces.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

It is important for cats to have hiding spaces to be alone and decompress. They should be offered several small spaces in the home to relax so they seeking unsafe places. Creating a safe place for your cat to rest should start where your cat is naturally drawn to. It is also ideal to add safe areas for your cat to relax that are more social. So that he becomes less stressed over time.

Buying your cat a cat cave or similar style bed works great in allowing your cat to burrow in and feel safe. For cats who prefer vertical spaces, buying a cat tree with cubbies built into it works well. 

For a do-it-yourself approach, you can make your cat an enclosed bed from a crate or even a cat carrier. Placing comfortable blankets or plain towels inside makes it more inviting to your cat. The added bonus of using a cat carrier, is your cat will also relate it in a positive way which can make traveling easier.

PREVENTING UNSAFE PLACES

Keeping your cat away from unwanted or unsafe small spaces is just as important as creating a safe one. Always shut the door to rooms that you don’t want your cat in like a closet or a garage. If your cat spends a lot of time hiding under the bed, or in a closet it could be an indication that something is making your cat feel unsafe.

While punishing your cat by forcing him to stay in certain rooms is not ideal and probably won’t work, you can encourage your cat to sleep in safe spots. Try placing a blanket in a room you spend the most time so your cat can be comfortable near you.

If after providing your cat with a safe place he is still hiding, talk to your veterinarian. You may need to rule out any medical issues or seek professional help to rule out a behavioral problem.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do cats fit into small spaces?
Cats are able to squeeze into small spaces because cats do not have a rigid collarbone to block them from entering tight and narrow areas. Once they can get their head and shoulders through, their sleek bodies follow easily.

Why do cats like small spaces?
There are several reasons cats like to squeeze into small and confined spaces. They have an instinctual need for protection and to stay warm. They also like to avoid environmental stress and conflict so they look for a tight space to hide. Lastly it may remind them of being a kitten snug against their mother in a confined space.

Where do cats like to sleep?
Instinct tells cats they are vulnerable while sleeping, so they choose areas they feel safe, secure and warm. They tend to like burrowing into bags, cat beds or cat caves to take a stress-free nap as well as block out noise.

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