Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces despite their chubby bodies?

1. Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces?

If there is a small space with at least three sides surrounding it, your cat might climb inside and create a comfortable feeling for itself. Here are the reasons why cats like to squeeze into such spaces!

a. Warmth

By instinct, cats curl up into a ball when they sleep to protect their bellies. Unlike dogs, cats don’t expose their bellies. This is because a cat’s belly is the most vulnerable part of its body and they prefer to shield it for safety. Cats tend to rest better by hiding their vital organs, even indoors.

Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces? - Warmth
Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces? – Warmth

Cats are also creatures that seek warmth. This is because cats were originally desert animals and are most comfortable at temperatures between 33 – 37°C. Curling up in a small space to sleep can help cats retain the preferred body heat. That’s why cats like to squeeze into tight spaces.

b. Providing a sense of security

Cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel safe and secure, rather than facing potential dangers in open spaces. These small spaces provide cats with a quiet and peaceful environment that they enjoy, even if the only big threat they can perceive in your home is a noisy vacuum cleaner.

Cats like to position themselves so they can see outside. They feel safe and hidden from potential threats. Having something behind them helps them feel secure when no one is sneaking up from behind. At the same time, cats can see enemies and other threats. Their head is facing outward, so they can easily fight if necessary. For this reason, it’s a good idea to prepare plenty of cardboard boxes for your cat or get them a sturdy cat house.

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Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces? - Safety
Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces? – Safety

These confined spaces can also remind cats of their kittenhood. Mother cats often seek out a quiet and relatively small space to give birth and care for their kittens. This instinct is why cats seek out small spaces to give birth, instead of open areas. It’s likely that adult cats will retain this peaceful memory from their early days when looking for small spaces.

c. Psychological reasons

Psychologically, small and confined spaces provide cats with an escape from anything that bothers them. Cats are not very good at resolving conflicts. Although they may appear feisty, cats tend to retreat and hide in the hope that those conflicts and annoyances will disappear. Therefore, during times of tension, you may find your cat hiding in a box or under furniture in tight spaces.

2. Why can cats squeeze into small spaces?

We often say that cats are liquid. They can fit into and squeeze into much smaller spaces than their size suggests. Cats have a few anatomical advantages that allow them to fit into tight spaces.

  • Flexible ribs, shoulders, and spine: Cats can squeeze under anything that is head-height because they have flexible ribs, shoulders, and spine.

    • Floating ribs: Unlike the large, attached ribs of humans, a cat’s ribs are very small and floating in the shoulder muscles. This anatomical difference, combined with the flexible shoulders of a cat, allows them to squeeze through very narrow gaps without injury.

    • Loose shoulders: A cat’s shoulders are connected to the rest of its body through muscles rather than bones, allowing them to move in almost any direction. This freedom of movement allows a cat to squeeze into small spaces. It also helps extend a cat’s stride, making them faster (up to 48km/h) and better able to escape danger.

  • Whiskers: The whiskers of a cat play a more important role than you might think. Cats use their whiskers to determine the width of a space. Unless the cat is too fat, they can squeeze through any opening as wide as their whiskers, as long as there is enough space on the other side. If there isn’t enough space on the other side, the cat may get stuck.

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You can learn more about the magical abilities of cat whiskers to understand how important they are.

Cat whiskers

Cats’ whiskers are equipped with a set of nerve endings and a blood supply that help them evaluate distance and space. Cats also have whiskers on their paws and forehead, which are also very sensitive and help them assess space.

3. Creating a safe space for your cat

For cats, having a hiding space is important. Cats like to decompress and have time to themselves. Provide them with plenty of choices.

  • When you need to create a safe, compact space for your cat, start with where your cat naturally gravitates. Get creative with what you already have. Cardboard boxes, storage bins, baskets – anything the size of a shoebox or bigger can meet your cat’s needs. Try placing soft blankets inside to make it more appealing.

  • If your cat likes to hide on shelves, put a yoga mat there to encourage them to rest there. You can also try placing food for your cat or feeding your cat in a specific area. Some cat trees combine high perches with enclosed spaces, fulfilling cats’ needs for height and enclosed spaces.

Below are some cat trees that you can consider:

Cat tree 1

Cat tree 2

  • Simulate your cat’s natural hunting behavior. You can place pieces of freeze-dried chicken or cat treats in small spaces, high spaces, or in paper bags with handles for them to explore.

  • Curiosity and exploration can also play a big role. Like children, cats are attracted to novelty and discovering new places. The most important thing is that the cat feels most relaxed there.

  • Do not force your cat into a specific space or punish them for hiding in places you don’t want them to. It is important to encourage your cat to sleep in a comfortable and safe place, but make sure your cat is not avoiding out of fear or due to health issues. If you have a cat that frequently hides in a closet or under the bed, it may be a sign that they don’t feel safe.

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In addition to hiding behaviors, it is recommended to read more about “Signs of a sick cat” to be able to take them to the vet in a timely manner.

4. Keeping your cat safe

Because cats like to squeeze into tight and hidden spaces, they can go crazy and end up injuring themselves. So, make sure to keep your furry friend safe.

  • Ensure that your cat can escape from anything they crawl into. If your cat cannot enter or exit a space on its own, block the entrances.

  • Close cupboards and drawers, especially if those are the places where you store household cleaning products. These substances are toxic to your cat and can cause serious health problems or even death. You should read more about household items and plants that are toxic to cats to be even more careful.

Funny cat
Why do cats squeeze into tight spaces?

  • Close the washing machine and dryer doors, ensuring they are always locked when not in use. Cats like to crawl into these appliances because they are warm, and you may accidentally wash your cat.

  • Know your cat’s favorite hiding places: If your cat tends to hide in your closet or drawers, you need to know where those places are. This is helpful in case you need to evacuate your cat in an emergency.


If you have a cat, you’ll notice that they like to squeeze into tight and small spaces, regardless of how big their bodies are. This is because these spaces provide cats with a sense of warmth, safety, and are ideal places to avoid conflicts.

Cats can fit into these small spaces because their bodies are incredibly flexible. Their whiskers also contribute to helping them orient themselves in space. Squeezing into these spaces can sometimes cause cats to get stuck. Therefore, you need to block off small spaces that may be dangerous to cats and create spaces for them to hide, such as cardboard boxes or cat trees.

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