Cats love to snuggle into
cozy, dark places.
Violet and Sakhara liked to sleep together.
In the wild, cats use caves and other dark, cozy places for
- staying warm;
- having kittens;
- hiding from predators;
- recovering from injury or illness.
When we bring cats indoors, their need for a “cat cave” remains.
A cat cave provides security, warmth, and comfort. It’s a private space for each cat to enjoy, or a place for 2 friends to snuggle up together.
Does your cat crave a cat cave?
If your cat is hiding in closets, under beds, or behind furniture, a cat cave might be just the thing.
Cats who especially benefit from cat caves are:
- feral cats making the transition to indoor living;
- sick or injured cats;
- elderly cats;
- cats recovering from surgery.
Many cats who enjoy meditating will really appreciate a cat cave.
Violet introduced me to cat caves.
Violet has an intense need for warmth in the winter. When she was young, she tried to sit on top of my baseboard radiators – an impossible feat for any cat.
To help her feel warm and comfortable, I found a cardboard box of the right height. She could sit part-way on the radiator with the box holding the rest of her body.
I soon realized that I could do better for her. With Violet’s instruction, I created my first cat cave. I’ve been making them ever since.
This particular cave is currently used by Starlight, but I once found Violet snugged in there with her. So it meets the needs of cozy and two can share, but mostly now it’s Starlight’s to enjoy.
Home-made cat caves are inexpensive, sturdy and warm.
To make a cat cave, you will need:
- a cat sized “corrugated” cardboard box.
- a bath size towel (approx. 2 feet by 3 feet).
- a soft item for a cat to lie on.
- duct tape or packaging tape.
- a foam mattress (for elder cats especially).
From a cat’s point of view, the cave doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be
- dark and cozy inside, i.e., not too big.
- capable of holding body heat plus any additional heat that the season requires.
- a safe, quiet location.
Depending on how your home is heated, you may want to put the back or side of the cave someplace warm:
- against a baseboard radiator
- next to a hot air vent that’s located on the floor
- against or next to an old-fashioned radiator
I don’t recommend putting a heating pad inside, as that can become too hot. You can put a heating pad behind the box or you can use large plastic soda bottles filled with hot water behind and along the sides outside of the box to provide some additional warmth.
>> Box Size <<
Choose a cardboard box that is large enough for 1 or 2 cats, depending on your situation.
>> The cat(s) should be able to stand up and stretch, and turn around easily inside the box.
>> If you have a pair of cats who love to snuggle up together, a 2-cat box might be fine.
>> “Corrugated” Cardboard <<
Cardboard boxes are the best material for a cat cave because they are corrugated, i.e., there are air spaces that hold heat. Many are also quite sturdy. They are also light weight and thus easy to move around.
The cave in the photo here is located upstairs where it’s cooler in the winter time. So the cave sits on top of some old pillows to insulate the bottom and to give the cave a bit of height, which cats seem to prefer.
Notice the baseboard radiator. All my caves back up to radiators for warmth in the winter. In summer, of course, the heat is off and the cave is warm enough.
Oh … the feline who came to help me take the pictures is Starlight.
If a cat is sick and a box becomes dirty with vomit or feces, you can always throw it out and get a new one. Cardboard is inexpensive – just save some of the those empty boxes you get every time you order something online.
If you don’t have any boxes available, you can get some at the back of stores that are throwing them away. Liquor stores are a good option, and some supermarkets have lots of boxes in their trash.
Make sure the box is very clean and doesn’t have any blood or strong odors.
A fancy wooden box is not as good as cardboard because it won’t hold the heat as well. If you want your cat cave to look “fancy”, cover it with a fancy patterned towel. “Fancy” is a human need, not a cat need.
>> Cardboard Box Preparation <<
The bottom of the box becomes the back of the cave.
The “top” is used as the opening for the cat to walk into the box.
Depending on the box you choose, you may have to fold the flaps into the box and secure them with tape, making the box stronger. Duct tape works better then packaging tape.
You can also use the flaps to make a box larger by taping them in an open position.
Please note that all work on cat caves will most likely be supervised by your cat. That’s normal, natural, and appropriate, from the feline perspective.
If the cat keeps jumping in the box slowing down the creation process, or gets tangled up in the duct tape, the cats is teaching you that creativity is supposed to be fun and not a serious enterprise.
I recommend getting into the spirit of the play – it will be healthier for you and more fun, too.
BATH TOWEL CAVE COVER
I use a bath towel to cover most of my caves, but you can use anything else you have around that’s appropriate. The idea is to drape the towel over the front of the cave and to cover the top and part of the sides as well.
The cover serves these functions:
- It hangs down over the opening, leaving 2-3″ space open at the bottom. This allows the cat to come and go easily, while still providing a dark, warm interior.
- It creates the mysterious darkness that cats love.
- It adds some additional insulation.
- It’s easy to lift up to see if someone is inside, or to reach inside, and you can also leave it open if the cave becomes too warm.
Drape the cave with something easily washable, such as old towels or pieces of polar fleece.
BENEATH THE CAT CAVE
Some cats are comfortable being on the floor, and as long as the floor is warm enough, putting the cat cave there is no problem. It can be placed on bare floor or on carpet.
If your cat loves height, you can put the cat cave on a large chair or on a foot stool that is large enough to hold the cave and leave a bit of space in front for the cat to jump up on before entering the cave
Wherever you set the cave, it must be easy for the cat to get in and out. A sick or elderly cat may not be able to jump up to reach their cave, and the last thing you want is for the cat to fall down and get hurt.
A young, healthy cat may be very comfortable on a folded up towel, an old, soft bath mat, or anything that is soft and will shape itself to the cat.
I have many pieces of polar fleece cut up into 3 foot squares that I use to cover my cat beds and to use inside the caves. They are warm, collect cat fur, and are easily washable. They dry quickly in a dryer, so you can get rid of the fuzz during shedding season, which seems to be all year round (at times).
GETTING FELINE APPROVAL
Allow your cat to explore a new cave at leisure. The cat will find the darkness and warmth inviting and will probably move right in if s/he is sick or elderly and feeling cold, or even just to place her energy in the cave to claim it.
I purchased this lovely cat bed online thinking that my girls might like something different. The only reason Sakhara is actually inside it is because I shoved her in. No one would go into it willingly, even after several washes to get rid of the chemical preservative smell that is used on all cloth items today.
As you can see from Sakhara’s expression, she is not happy with this cave.
It was never accepted by any of my cats, not even after I threw a piece of polar fleece over the top to make the inside more mysterious.
Starlight’s solution was to sit on the polar fleece thus flattening the entire structure into a chaise lounge appearance. So now it’s in her upstairs cave still covered by the fleece. (See photo above of the cave sitting on pillows.)
NEED HELP WITH ELDERLY OR SICK CATS?
There is a photo of a cat cave in this post: Feline Hospice for Violet
The one pictured there has a black plastic liner (cut up garbage bag) in the bottom for cats that are dying or leaking urine. There’s a picture of an orthopedic mattress further down in the same post.
Of course, I’m always available to assist you and your cats and other animals in any way I can.