Hiding Places for Your Cat (Guide)

The best ways to provide cats with safe spaces in the home, from cat caves to cat trees and DIY options.

The best hiding places for your cat, like a cat tunnel (pictured)
Photo: Kimberley Boyles/Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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Everyone wants a happy cat, but cats like their environment to be set up right for them. One of the biggest welfare issues affecting pet cats is social behaviour issues due to a poor home environment. The five pillars of a healthy feline environment provide guidelines on what cats need, and one of those pillars is a safe space.

When cats are faced with something stressful, they like to hide in order to avoid confrontation. Providing safe spaces gives them somewhere to go and relax when everything is fine, and somewhere to hide if they are feeling stressed.

From a cat’s perspective, the best hiding places are the right size for them and enclosed. Cats also like to be high up and have nice places to perch where they can see what’s going on. In a multi-cat home, cats that are friends may choose to cuddle up in the same safe spaces, but cats should always have access to their own independent safe spaces too.

Luckily there are lots of easy ways to provide your cat with safe spaces. Don’t just think about ground level, but remember to think about height too.

Cat trees

Cat trees give cats the opportunity to get up high. Many of them include a space that is either enclosed by a low rim that enables the cat to have a little bit of cover, but some have a completely enclosed area for the cat to hide in.

Cat trees can also give cats the opportunity to scratch, something which is a normal behaviour for cats. They need the right kind of scratching post so as not to pick your furniture instead. Research shows that cats prefer scratching posts that have two or more levels and a sturdy base.

The best hiding places for cats
Cat hiding in a cardboard box. Photo: Belozerova Daria/Shutterstock

Bearing that in mind, there are cat trees to suit every budget and interior design taste. I like the modern looks of the Vesper cat tree which is 47.9 inches high, and has an enclosed space for a cat to hide in as well as the shelves to perch on. The Trixie pet products Palamos cat tree has sisal covered vertical posts (perfect for scratching) and carpeted shelves for lounging. The condo part has a wide opening which would be great for some cats, but not for others as it affords less hiding.

If you don’t feel like putting a cat tree together, there’s a lot to be said for buying one that is pre-assembled from your local pet store.

When choosing a cat tree, make sure that it has a solid base and is nice and sturdy. Consider positioning it near a window so as to give your cat a nice view.

Cat beds, cat caves, and cat hammocks

Cat beds and cat caves make nice places for cats to curl up and relax. They can also be useful bolt holes if your cat wishes to hide.

Look for something that is the right size for your cat. A little cat will find a small bed just the right size for her, whereas a big cat will need something a bit larger. Think about where to place them too – in quiet places for times when your cat wishes to be secluded, and in quiet parts of rooms where you spend a lot of time so they can be near you but still in their own safe space.

Think about height here too. The Refined Feline Kitty Ball gives cats a space off the ground to sleep in, and comes with a machine washable cushion. A cat hammock could be placed near a sunny window or in a warm part of the room.

The best hiding places for your cat... like the linen closet, pictured
Cats tend to like the linen closet. Photo: Konstantin Aksenov/Shutterstock

Cat tunnels

Cat tunnels are great because cats can use them as a hiding place, but they can also just use them as a general fun thing. My cat Melina likes to run through her cat tunnel at top speed. But she also likes to hide in there and then, when you aren’t expecting it, will suddenly run out very fast to surprise you. So it’s great to have cat tunnels for play.

Tunnels can be made out of plastic, mesh, suede, and even heavy duty brown paper. Some are collapsible, which is useful if you want to put them away (but bear in mind your cat would likely prefer it to be out all the time). Some have multiple arms.

The Trixie scratching tunnel has a plush lining to make it a nice place for sleeping as well as sisal on the outside for scratching. Jackson Galaxy has mesh tunnels so you can see the cat inside it, which is fun for you (but makes it more for play and less suitable for hiding). It can also connect to a cat carrier which is a good way to incorporate the carrier into playtime.

The Dezi and Roo Hide and Sneak is made of brown paper which makes a lovely crinkly noise when the cat is in there and is surprisingly long-lasting. It’s also large enough for a bigger cat. It’s a big hit with both of my cats.*

The cat carrier should be a safe space

Ideally, the cat carrier is a nice safe place for your cat to hang out… rather than a terrifying thing that only comes out when a trip to the vet is imminent.

It’s a good idea to keep the carrier out at all times, in a place where your cat can use it. That way it doesn’t predict trips to the vet. If you need some tips on teaching your cat to like the carrier, check out 8 ways to help your cat go to the vet.

If your cat is used to relaxing in the carrier, it can really help when you go to the vet, because then the carrier becomes a safe space for them in the vet’s office.

Make sure you line the carrier with something cosy so that it is nice and warm in there. It’s best to pick a carrier where the top is detachable, as this allows the vet to examine your cat in the base of the carrier if that is what works best for your cat, instead of trying to pry them out of there.

Household and DIY options for cat hiding spaces

If you like, you can buy wall-mounted shelves and cat beds to put up in your living space. There are plenty available from Amazon or specialist cat stores like Fundamentally Feline. If you’re into DIY, you could make your own.

Ikeahackers have lots of project ideas like turning Ikea doll beds into cat beds or converting shelves into a cat space. And while we’re on the subject Ikea even makes special inserts for its shelves so that cats can make use of them. You can also find some great cat furniture on Etsy.

But you don’t have to spend money to make nice hiding places for cats. Take a look round your house and identify the spaces your cat already uses, and other spaces that you could make nice for them. For example, maybe your cat already likes to cuddle up in the linen closet or under a pile of clothes in the laundry basket? If possible, you should protect those as safe spaces for your cat.

Maybe your cat likes to hide under a blanket on your bed, or worm her way underneath a throw on the settee. This shows that cats only need a small entry way to get in (and also that they like to be warm). Sometimes so long as their head or the top part of their body is hiding, they don’t mind if other body parts (like the tail) are still on view!

Hiding places for cats - cats don't mind if the tail is visible (pictured)
A cat hiding with their tail still visible. Photo: Koldunov Alexey/Shutterstock

Remember to think about height here too. Perhaps there is a shelf that you could turn into a nice space for your cat by putting a blanket or cat bed on it? Maybe there is a side table that you could put a tablecloth on, thus creating an enclosed space underneath it?

And of course there’s always the famous cardboard box, which you can set down as is, or cut a hole to make an entry way and turn upside down to create a nice hiding place.

Use your imagination and see what you can come up with to make some extra safe places for your cat.

Unsafe places

If your cat likes to hide in drawers or cupboards, make sure they aren’t going to accidentally get stuck in there. Things that might be toxic to cats need to be shut away where they can’t get at them. And don’t let your cat hide in your washing machine or tumble drier. You can see how these spaces could be interesting to cats (especially when the tumble drier is warm), but it’s quite possible not to realize they are in there and start the machine going…

Cats are good at learning to open doors by sliding their paw underneath and tugging, or even jumping up to depress a lever door handle. If necessary, use the gadgets that toddler-proof doors to keep your cat safe.

Warmth, smell, and coziness

What if your cat isn’t using the nice hiding place you made? Or perhaps you simply want to see if you can improve on an existing hiding place. There are a few things you can do.

First of all, make sure it is nice and cozy. Fleece blankets are great because they are soft and warm, and they are also easily washable.

Second, remember that scent is important to cats. When you see your cat rubbing their head on something, they are depositing pheromones. That scent is reassuring to them. So don’t wash their bedding too often, as it will get rid of that scent. If you pet the cat with a cotton glove on, you can then transfer their scent by rubbing your gloved hand on the new item. You can also consider giving them some bedding that smells of you, such as a t-shirt you have worn, because they may find that comforting too.

Third, cats like to be warm. That’s why they like to bask in patches of sunlight or to lounge on top of your laptop. So try to make sure their hiding places are warm and protected from drafts. You can also buy heated cat beds or microwaveable heat pouches to put under their bedding.

Finally, cats also like treats… If you want to encourage your cat to use a particular space, you can leave treats there for them to find. I do this with their cat carriers as I want them to keep having positive associations with them.

For more tips on how to care for your cat, pre-order my book Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. Dr. Sarah Ellis, co-author of The Trainable Cat, says "Purr is definitely a book your cat would want you to read."

Purr is definitely a book your cat would want you to read
Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy

Which safe spaces in your home does your cat like to hang out in?

P.S. Sign up now to get my free guide, Seven Secrets to a Happy Cat and learn how to have a better relationship with your pet. 

* I received a complementary Hide and Sneak from Dezi and Roo.

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