We’ve all experienced the desperation and sheer panic when Fluffy seemingly ‘goes missing,’ searching high-and-low for your AWOL four-legged pal. But then you hear familiar faint snoring in the distance and that Sherpa blanket on the sofa moving subtly up and down. Admitting you’ve been fooled again comes with some relief — but why do cats burrow under blankets?
Cats burrow under blankets because it provides warmth, safety, and comfort. It allows cats to nap comfortably with full-protection from predators (and a hideout to sneak up on ‘prey’). A blanket can also keep a cat warm and cozy, soothed when anxious or nervous, and comforted by your scent.
Fluffy crawling beneath your blanket as you tune into Jeopardy doesn’t always mean, ‘Turn up the thermostat, will you?’ The most logical explanations are deeply-rooted in feline instincts. To learn about why cats burrow under blankets, read on!
Your Cat Is a Little Cold
A cat’s plush coat has millions of thick hairs that can protect her from the elements in the wild (i.e., snow, rain, and sub-zero gusts). But just because cats can tolerate long hours in 45°F (7.2°C) weather, kitties typically prefer temperatures around a cozy 70°F (21.2°C) — give or take a few degrees.
That plump duvet can act as a makeshift insulator, somewhat like wearing an extra fluffy coat. Blankets can protect a cat from the cold (mostly if you prefer a chill 65°F (18.3°C) thermostat setting) while also keeping her internal temperature within the average 101 to 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C) range by preventing heat from escaping. When you’re under the blanket, you also become a ‘heat lamp.’
That begs the question: How do you know if this new hidey-hole fad is due to coldness? Simple. A cold cat might:
- Shiver or shake (in extreme cold)
- Lounge near the space heater, radiator, or vent
- Tuck her paws beneath her chest while lying down
- Curl into a tight ball when a blanket isn’t available
Try raising your thermostat a few degrees to see if this blanket habit (and these other side effects) fades. If not, your cat might crave the comfort and warmth!
Your Cat Wants a Safe Place to Snooze
An outdoor cat who stretches out on a patio or naps in a field is a prime target to hungry predators. Foxes, coyotes, and bobcats will not only spot this cat in broad daylight, but these unsuspecting kitties also have few natural defenses (a tree to climb or fence to crawl under).
This ever-present threat is why cats sleep in deep leaf piles or the dark, enclosed locations (an abandoned dog house or beneath sewer grates, for example). Even if your home is 100% predator-free, domestic cats still carry this instinct to hide while vulnerable and asleep.
That cozy blanket is a sleepy-time shelter where your cat can feel safe while sleeping. If your cat is easily-startled or generally a ‘nervous Nelly,’ this underlying fear is the likely explanation.
Your Cat Feels Comforted by Your Scent
Cats might be self-professed loners while exploring the wilderness and will avoid Fido like the plague, but they’re also highly affectionate critters when it comes to their favorite humans. When you’re away from home or typing away in the home office, your cat might snuggle in the mountain-high dirty laundry basket until you finally return.
The reason is simple: Cats find comfort in our natural scents and musks (even if you can’t smell it yourself). If Fluffy is burrowing inside your favorite blanket, it could remind her of you and mimic sleeping by your side, even if you’re 30 miles away. Test this theory by washing the blanket or replacing the old one you haven’t used — if it loses its appeal; there’s your answer!
Your Cat Is Anxious, Nervous, or Shy
Cats aren’t always the most outgoing and social creatures. While some friendly kitties will greet strangers at the door with a head bunt and a hearty meow, others will ‘make themselves invisible’ by hiding under the bed frame. An anxious, nervous, or otherwise shy cat might:
- Become skittish around new people (or easily-startled)
- Have a low-hanging or puffed-out tail
- Walk low to the ground
- Hiss, growl, or swat when feeling cornered
A shy cat may get creative about where she hides when she’s feeling overstimulated (i.e., with guests over, on the Fourth of July, or after moving to a new home). When behind the bookcase or atop the refrigerator loses its appeal, the blanket-burrowing begins!
The blanket cuddles are adorable, but they don’t address the underlying problem: Anxiety. If your cat is skittish or untrusting, invest in calming pheromone plug-ins, don’t force your cat into nerve-inducing scenarios, and reward your cat for progress (i.e., allowing a guest to pet her).
Some cats are far more introverted than others, but you can coax them out of their ‘shells’ to become more confident and social kitties. The video below explains how to do just that:
Your Cat Likes To Feel Comfy Too
Cats sleep in bizarre, topsy-turvy positions that make you question, ‘How is that comfortable?’ But despite the head-to-toe curl positions and awkward back-sleeping, cats are also comfort connoisseurs. A woolly blanket can provide a cat with comfort or warmth like no other.
Whether the appeal is the blanket’s hairy fibers (similar to nuzzling with mom during kittenhood), heavier weight (supplying an anxiety-relieving swaddling sensation), or darkness (which is when cats are safest in the wilderness) depends on your cat’s personality. If your cat’s a stickler for fluffy beds and plush laundry piles, it’s a comfort thing!
Your Cat Is Fulfilling Those Hunting Instincts
Cats are in the middle of the natural food chain, boasting a long predator line-up and hunting instincts themselves — with birds and rodents being their usual targets. What many cat owners don’t realize until the first pounce is that cats are notorious ambush hunters.
Sometimes, this burrowing lasts just a few moments before Fluffy pops out to startle you as you walk by or swats at your toes as you snuggle beneath the blanket. This hiding tactic is your kitty lying in wait until her next prey ambush — in this case, you — become vulnerable to ‘attack.’ If your cat sneaks up on you from behind doors or under the bed, it’s likely a sneak attack!
What’s the Best Type of Blanket for Cats?
Once your cat latches onto the blanket-burrowing bandwagon, you have two options:
- Stop snuggling under blankets entirely to prevent the embedded hairs (not realistic), or
- Buy fuzzy and shaggy blankets that repel hair without sacrificing Fluffy’s comfort
The most pet-friendly blankets will be tightly-woven with high-thread counts to prevent hair from weaving deep into the fibers. That leaves you with microfiber, 100% cotton, and bamboo. Leave the blanket in a pile on the sofa, and you’ll come home to Fluffy snuggled in a DIY cove.
Don’t forget to brush the loose hairs free with a rubber brush or lint roller and toss the blanket into the washing machine every 1-2 weeks to keep it clean.
If your cat joins you under the blanket at bedtime or burrows in that fluffy mound while you’re at work, it’s normally innocent behavior. But this hiding can also be a red flag that your cat isn’t feeling well. Keep an eye out for:
- Constant hiding in normally-social cats (in blankets, under the bed, behind the TV stand)
- Crankiness, aggression, or avoiding physical contact
- Fatigue, lethargy, and napping more often than usual
- Eating or drinking less
When you pull back that fleece blanket and experience a hiss greeting instead of the stretch and yawn combo, give the vet a call.
- VCA Hospitals: Taking Your Pet’s Temperature
- NPS: Cats: Predators or Prey?
- PetMD: Are Anxiety Blankets Safe for Pets?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.