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Why Does My Cat Sleep In Their Carrier?

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For most cats, the carrier is a sign of impending danger. When you pull out your cat’s carrier, it means getting in the car and in many cases a trip to the veterinarian.

But what if you don’t pull that carrier out at all and instead it’s just out and about all day…and your cat decided to sleep in it?

Why would cats sleep in a carrier?

If the carrier is always available, cats may see it as another comfortable cubby they can sleep in. If the carrier is only brought out when it’s time to travel, cats may be excited about going on a trip or more likely are trying to put their scent on the new item while staying comfortable. 

Let’s look a little closer at what may be motivating cats to sleep in their favorite carrier with 5 reasons to explain his feline behavior.

Where Is Your Carrier?

Before we get into the specific reasons, it’s worth considering exactly where your carrier is most of the time as this will greatly influence which reason makes the most sense for your cat.

Obviously, if your cat is sleeping in their carrier then the carrier is out and about but is it always available or just for short periods of time?

If the carrier is only out for short periods then explanations like scent marking and curiosity will be even more likely. But if the carrier is always available for naps then cats probably just appreciate them for the cozy cat beds they can be.

Just keep this in mind as you review the reasons below!

Reason 1: To “Claim” The Carrier With Their Scent!

It can be easy to forget, but our feline friends live in a world very different from our own where smells and territory are extremely important. In the wild, cats would control large areas of land and live a mostly solitary existence.

Even though our feline friends are happy to share their home with us, territory is still important, and while it’s easy for us to visually determine the lines of our territory (aka our house) our cats use scent to figure out what’s what and who belongs where.

Considering that our cats have a sense of smell 14 times stronger than our own, it’s no surprise that sometimes we just don’t get it! In fact, scent is so important that if a cat’s scent changes too much then their own mother won’t recognize them!

But what does all this have to do with sleeping in a cat carrier?

Because that cat carrier is a part of your cat’s turf and just like you and everything else in their domain it should smell like your cat! At least, that’s your cat’s opinion.

Carriers smell strange if they’re coming from the closet, garage, car, or any other area that cats don’t regularly go to. For your cat, that’s something that needs to be addressed and if that carrier just came from a strange place outside the home then it’s an even more important issue as the scent is even stranger!

While cats have several ways of marking their territory from the feline headbutt to scratching, sleeping works too and their numerous scent glands will make sure the carrier smells like them. They may even leave a fine layer of hair to really drive the point home!

Reason 2: Cats Like Small Spaces That Feel Safe

It’s a classic internet meme now, so you’ve probably heard the phrase “If I fits, I sits.”

As with most memes, it starts with some truth and cats sure do love squeezing into tight spots when it comes to nap time…or really any time. You can even enjoy entire complications of cats crawling into some mind-blowingly small spaces:

But we have a lot more than just memes to turn to when it comes to cats and small spaces and this phenomenon has received some serious academic attention. Researchers found that being given a box to hide in reduced a cat’s stress level in the animal shelter environment. The boxes used are quite similar to the shape of your standard carrier so it should be no surprise that cats enjoy a nice nap in a safe spot.

Why could this be?

While we might only think of our cats as gift-giving apex predators, in reality, our cats are also prey, and hiding in dark small spaces is a great way to feel safe. Even though your little cat doesn’t have to worry about any predators in your home, their instincts still drive them to find safe secure locations like their cat carrier.

This motivation for small spaces explains why so many cat trees include hideaway cubbies and other feline sleeping preferences like taking a nap on luggage or a backpack.

Reason 4: Your Cat Was Curious About The Carrier…Then Got Sleepy

Our cats are well known for their interest in anything new and even though their curiosity may seem out of place in the home it’s been a crucial part of their survival.

As prolific hunters, cats are always searching for their next meal which means looking in small, tight, and oftentimes dark places for potential prey. Of course, your well-fed housecat doesn’t need to turn over every corner of the house to track down a mouse to survive, but the instinct to explore is still strong and many cats just can’t resist taking a closer look inside that cat carrier.

But exploration can wear a cat out, right?

What may have started as an opportunity to explore could turn into nap time as cats find their new territory is quite comfortable. This explanation is especially likely if the cat carrier isn’t available 100% of the time and is instead only brought out before travel.

Reason 5: Carriers Can Be Warm…And Cats Love Warmth!

Our cats love finding the warmest possible place they can and a carrier can often make a great option. The enclosed spaces help cats retain heat and if you’ve added a comfortable cat bed or blanket into the mix then most cats just can’t resist sleeping in the carrier.

Depending on the material that the carrier is made from, it could be very good at insulating and cats are constantly on the hunt for warmth.

Cats have an average body temperature of around 102 degrees Fahrenheit which means they need to do a little more work to stay warm compared to us. While cats have fur, they can’t just throw on a jacket to warm up, and curling up into a sleepy little ball inside their cat carrier could be the next best thing!

Should I Worry?

Absolutely not!

In fact, you should consider yourself lucky!

Many cats will run at the first sight of their cat carrier which makes trips to the veterinarian even more difficult. If you’re lucky enough to have a cat that enjoys sleeping in their carrier then you’re one step closer to making the entire experience much less stressful.

How To Make Your Cat’s Carrier Even More Enticing For Sleeping

Whether your cat is already sleeping in their carrier or if you just want to encourage your cat to start so that it doesn’t seem like such a scary place, there are several things you can do to encourage the behavior.

Add Additional Bedding

Most carriers aren’t exactly comfortable on their own. Whether they’re hard or soft-shelled, they’re usually made of easy-to-clean but not very cozy plastic. While some cats won’t seem to care in the slightest, most cats will appreciate the addition of a bed or blanket to make the carrier a bit roomier.

Place The Carrier In A High Traffic (But Safe) Area

We’ve already discussed how important territory is for cats but they don’t want just any old territory. Instead, they want to claim some of the best spots in the house!

That explains why territorial behaviors like scratching so often occur on living room furniture where people are most likely to hang out. It’s also prime real estate for interesting scents as people mingle.

These important and socially significant spots of the house are great locations for a cat carrier since it gives cats a secure spot to hang out in socially significant areas.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should put the carrier in the middle of the kitchen (even if your cat might like it) and you’ll still want to pick a corner or other nook that allows cats to feel extra safe inside their carrier while they nap.

Leave A Few Treats Inside

We’ve also discussed that a cat’s natural curiosity can be tied to their predatory instincts so what better way to tap into that than hiding a treat or two inside your cat’s carrier?

A snack and nap will be hard to resist for any cat!

Closing Thoughts

After a little exploration of our own into the world of feline instincts it should be no surprise that cats enjoy sleeping in their carrier.

If they can get over the possible negative associations or have never had them in the first place, carriers are actually ideal spots to snuggle up, stay warm and sleep away the day.

What do you think? What explanation makes the most sense for why your cat sleeps in a carrier?

Read Next: How To Select A Carrier For Your Cat?