Here's Exactly Why Cats Like to Hang Out in Small Spaces, According to Vets

It doesn't matter how many pet beds I invest in or how many blankets I pile on the couch for them, if there is a small cardboard box available my two cats, Tiny and Alfredo will sleep in it. And if there is no small box available, then not to worry — they will squish and squeeze their way into my linen-closet shelves, napping for hours on end sandwiched between a stack of towels and a Tupperware container full of nail polish.

My cats, like many others out there, prefer to sleep in teeny-tiny spaces over practically anything (OK, maybe my lap and the computer keyboard are close seconds). But why? Don't these small spaces make them feel uncomfortable or, if you're like me and hate feeling stuck, claustrophobic? To help us learn more about this very common (and somewhat baffling) behavior, POPSUGAR spoke to two experts.

Cats love to sleep in unimaginably small, seemingly uncomfortable places because it makes them feel safe and secure. "Cats, although predators, like to feel cozy and safe," explained Gabby Wild, DVM, MPH, CVA, a veterinarian and National Geographic Kids educator. "So any enclosure with at least three sides they will try to explore and snuggle in." Dr. Wild shared that even though cats are curious creatures who may love to hang around their owners, they still value their privacy — which is something a small cardboard box or tight shelf space is able to give them.

Crystal Heath, DVM, a vet and cofounder of Our Honor, explained that small spaces such as boxes can help a cat hold their position for them which in turn helps them conserve their energy. "When they cram themselves into a box they aren't using their muscles," Dr. Heath told POPSUGAR. "They are letting the box do the work for them." It is here that cats can truly let it all go and really relax.

Even though this behavior is very common among cats, Dr. Wild pointed out that it is important that owners keep an eye out for any out-of-the-ordinary behavior their cat may be exhibiting. For instance, if you notice that your cat is sleeping in a small, hidden space and doesn't usually do this it is important to make sure that nothing else may be going on health-wise. "Some cats will hide to disguise injury or sickness," Dr. Wild explained, "and they will increase their hiding in small spaces, especially under beds or sofas." She also cautioned that cats with hyperthyroidism might become hyperactive and may stop sleeping in these smaller, cozier spots because of this. If you notice your cat acting out of character, be sure to schedule a visit to the vet to find out more.