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Revealed: Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much? 6 Reasons Behind the Behavior

How many times have you cut a delivery box open only to turn around and find your cat has already made herself at home inside of it? Probably every time. A cat’s natural curiosity draws her in, and then her instincts take over the moment she sees the box. You’ve probably even seen the online photos of lions and tigers lounging in large cardboard boxes. So, it’s definitely a cat thing. But why? What is the attraction? We’ll explore the love affair between cats and boxes and hopefully figure out the mystery behind yet another idiosyncratic quirk in our beloved cats.

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1. Security and Comfort

cat sitting in cardboard box
Image Credit: AssiaPix, Shutterstock

This point is definitely one of the main reasons why cats love boxes so much. A Dutch study conducted in 2014 found that cats newly brought into a shelter and were given a box inside their enclosure were much less stressed than the cats that did not have a box. In general, the cats with boxes adapted to their new environment faster, were less stressed and were far more connected with people.

This proves that boxes are a genuine security blanket for cats as predators cannot sneak up on them. Cats in the wild will instinctively seek shelter in a dark and enclosed space if they can’t go up high, so a cardboard box for the housecat is the next best thing.

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2. Hunting Prey

cat hinding in an upside down box
Image Credit: Santiago Albarracín, Pixabay

A cat’s instincts to hide and pounce in order to capture its prey is another reason why boxes are so appealing. When in the wild, the cat as a predator will spend time hiding and stalking their prey, which makes the box a perfect place for your domestic cat to try out similar behavior. Even if the prey ends up being your legs.

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3. Warmth

cat curling up in a box
Image Credit: karlins_u, Pixabay

Cardboard boxes are great insulators. According to the National Research Council’s book Nutrient Requirements for Dogs and Cats, cats are most comfortable in a temperature of 86°F – 100.4°F, but we tend to keep our homes around 68°F – 75°F. Boxes provide insulation and warmth for the cat seeking out extra heat, and they make a great place for cats to escape to.

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4. Great Place to Sleep

cat sleeping in a box
Image Credit: Michael Dahmen, Pixabay

We’ve all seen cats curling up in the oddest places ­– whether it’s your bathroom sink or nestled in with your towels in the linen closet. A cardboard box also gives your cat the chance to curl up in a dark and warm place. This means that we cat owners need to provide our cats with all kinds of cozy and warm spots for our cats to snuggle up in, particularly during the colder seasons. Throwing a blanket in a cardboard box gives your cat the perfect place to stay warm and feel safe while she takes one of her long naps.

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5. Play Area

cats playing with a box
Image Credit: Dominic Alberts, Pixabay

Boxes also give your cat a space to play. Cats seem to enjoy biting and chewing on boxes and can scratch around to their heart’s content. This can help save your furniture and allows them to leave their scent and safely destroy something that can easily (and cheaply) be replaced.

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6. Avoiding Situations

cat hiding in a box
Image Credit: Ulrike Mai, Pixabay

This point is comparable to the stressed cat scenario, but cats tend to be somewhat antisocial at times and will use a box to help avoid situations that are causing them anxiety. Like a person who wants to avoid antagonistic circumstances, cats will seek out a safe place to escape difficult circumstances.

Cats are known to lack any ability towards conflict resolution and will usually resort to fighting or running and hiding. If there are other pets within your household, your cat may frequently hide in a box as a means to escape any issues with other animals. Or perhaps after you’ve raised your voice when your cat knocked that glass off the table. The box acts as a safe zone for your cat who is looking to avoid unwanted attention, hostile situations, or anything that is causing anxiety for your cat.

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Why a Box and Not the Cat Carrier?

This seems like an obvious answer. The carrier is also a pretty cozy spot that is, for all intents and purposes, a box. But when you bring it out, your cat usually runs and hides (probably into another box). Of course, cats are capable of being quite smart creatures and have good memories, so they’re associating the carrier with the ever-so-much-fun visits to the vet.

You can take some steps to make the carrier more inviting to your cat, such as keeping it out at all times rather than pulling it out just before an unpleasant trip. You can give it a bit of a wash, so it doesn’t retain the vet clinic’s scent or your car, and then place a blanket or towel that she sleeps on inside. You can also put some of her favorite toys inside and just leave it with the door open so she can come and go as she pleases.

How to Make a Box Safe for Your Cat

Not every box is necessarily safe for your cat, so here are a few steps you can take to ensure her safety.

  • If the box has handles cut into the sides, you should cut them all the way through to prevent your cat from sticking her head in and potentially getting stuck.
  • Remove any tape from the box, so your cat doesn’t decide to snack on it. There’s the potential for your cat ingesting it, which can cause a blockage in her intestines.
  • Ensure no elastic bands or any kind of string are still inside or attached to the box. Again, if your cat ingests any of these items, they can cause intestinal blockage.
  • Remove any plastic inside or outside of the box, and again, you don’t want her ingesting any. There’s also the danger of suffocation.
  • Ensure you remove any staples from the box as they can puncture your cat.

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So, there it is!  Cats and boxes and boxes and cats. They go together like peas and carrots. As long as you feel comfortable with having boxes lying around and you’ve taken the necessary precautions to make the box a safe place for your cat, you’ll be giving her the chance to feel safe and cozy (and sometimes playful). Is nothing better than that?

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Featured Image: Charles Betito, Pixabay