Why Do Cats Like Squeezing into Tight Spaces?

Cats have a lot of weird and wonderful quirks that we, as their owners and companions love to see. One odd little behaviour that stands out, is when they squeeze their fluffy little bodies into tiny spaces. A box, a drawer, a cupboard – or even more alarmingly – washing machines, car engines and wall cavities – cats will squeeze into any tight space it seems!

The question is, why do they do it? Why do cats struggle to resist squeezing into a tight space?

Read on to find out why our kitter pals live by the – ‘If I fits, I sits’ rule:

Why Do Cats Like Tight Spaces?

Cats tend to enjoy a tight space that encloses them, whilst also giving them room to look out and around them at the same time. Sometimes though, they may enjoy being totally enclosed, depending on their reason for slotting into any given space.

If you wonder, why do cats like tight spaces? There are a few reasons including:

Warmth

the cat likes warmth
Sometimes cats simply want to find a warm spot that gives them shelter. In the wild, they would look for a spot where they were not exposed to the rain, the wind and the cold. The more snug the spot, the more sheltered and warm that spot is. Despite you offering a warm home, your cat will still be naturally drawn to snug spots that replicate what they would look for as a wild animal.

Security

Cats are predators, but they are also predated in the wild. Their natural instinct leads them to seek places they can see around them, so no potential sneaky surprises can come from behind. This is one reason they just love a place high up, like a shelf. It is also why they like something snug like a box where they can see all around them, but they also have the sides to hide behind so they can’t be seen. A box is ideal for kitty security because it is snug, provides a hiding place and also gives them the space to have their head and arms sticking out so they are ready to fight if they have to.

Hunting

cat is hunting
Cats in the wild like to squeeze into a tight spot in order to wait for prey, and then pounce when it comes along. If they hunt your feet, or other cats, they may suddenly pounce from nowhere, having squeezed into the perfect tight hiding spot before the attack.

Fear

cat fear
Cats who squeeze into tight spots because they are scared are at the biggest risk to themselves because they won’t think through their hiding spot. Curious cats can end up in all kinds of spaces, but fearful cats take it one step further. You may find them inside a wall cavity, or even stuck inside a sofa. They want to hide from the threat, which is why they may choose a totally enclosed space and rely on their hearing. Often though, fearful cats, like those new to a house, will go under a sofa or bed so they can still look out for their perceived threat.

Pain

Cats follow their natural instincts when they are in pain and make themselves small. They may then progress to hiding away in order to protect themselves whilst they are injured. If your cat hides, and you then go to get them out of their spot and they scream, it may be a sign they need some medical attention quickly.

Curiosity

cats curiosity
A cat is a naturally curious creature who may nuzzle, rub and headbutt against various people, animals and items to show love, and to suss them out. Your cat may investigate a space like a box out of curiosity at first, squeezing into it once their ‘assessment’ is complete. This is the same reason they may end up getting stuck in pipes and other tight spots, because they *must* know what is in there.

How Do Cats Manage To Squeeze Into Such Tiny Spaces?

How come absolute chonk cats manage to squeeze into such tiny spaces? It doesn’t make any sense?

Actually… cats are kind of anatomically brilliant. You already know they do yoga better than any Instagram yogi goddess you follow. It’s those same incredible abilities that enable cats to get into little spaces. They can get underneath anything that is the height of their head because their collarbone, shoulders and spine are flexible. If their head and neck fit through a space, so does everything else!

That same flexibility enables cats to squeeze into boxes that seem too small for them.

Cats don’t just go for it though when it comes to a small space, they have a handy measuring tool – their whiskers. Their whiskers let them know they can fit through the space width-wise, as long as the space is not smaller than their whiskers. This rule doesn’t work with overweight cats though, as whiskers can’t account for extra chub.

How To Encourage Your Cats Natural Desire To Squeeze Into A Tight Space

By encouraging your cats natural desire to fit into small spaces, you can give them comfort and boost their mental stimulation. You can also help them to be healthier and more physically active.

Try the following to encourage your cats natural instincts:

  • Give your cats a range of boxes to play in
  • Try cutting holes in cardboard boxes to make DIY playhouses
  • When your cat is in a box, run a pen or stick along the sides and encourage your cat to ‘hunt’
  • Hide treats in small spaces you know your cat loves to squeeze into
  • Offer paper bags for your cat to jump into and play with

It is important that you always supervise your cat during playtime and always remove handles from bags you use to play with your cats.

Now You Know Why They Sits, If They Fits!
Now you know why your cat just loves to squeeze into a tight space, and you know how they do it too! You can enjoy encouraging those natural skills and instincts for better kitty health, happiness, and some pretty great photo ops too!

About Anneka Dalrymple

I am a writer of 6 years, and I’m a total animal nerd. I love wildlife, but none so much as my own tiny lion, April. She’s a 10 year old floofer who adopted us, and we’re so much happier for that. I have also grown up with animals and at one point we had 6 cats, 2 dogs and 2 rabbits. Pets are a total gift.

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