Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Cats and boxes are a mysterious combo. It seems like, no matter how much money I spent on a fancy cat tree or brand new toy, all my cats want to do is sit in an empty cardboard box.

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From huge Amazon boxes to a tiny shoe box, my cats sit in boxes of all shapes and sizes. Even weirder, sometimes they’ll crawl into a paper bag or backpack and curl up inside.

Why are cats drawn to these spaces?

Quick Answer…

Cats like to be in confined spaces — it helps them feel safe and secure. If a cat is feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, they’ll seek an enclosed shelter. At home, a box is the closest thing to an actual hideout.

Why Do Cats Love Boxes So Much?

Okay, cats like confined spaces. This isn’t the biggest news ever, but at least it puts some perspective on why your cat will rush to the nearest cardboard box for sanctuary. But, that’s not the only reason.

To Cope With a New Environment

In 2014, a study was conducted that measured the effect boxes have on shelter cats. There were two new groups of shetler cats: one received boxes, the other didn’t. The cats that had boxes to retreat to were reported to be less stressed out, adapted quickly and interacted better with humans than the cats without boxes.

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A cat’s natural reaction to stress is to run and hide, which makes perfect sense as to why they love boxes. If you just brought your cat home for the first time or you’re moving to a different place, put a box or two out for your cat to hangout in.

To Stalk Prey

Although there might not be any “prey” in your house like there would be in the wild, cats still use boxes to jump out at objects or even other animals. If you’re playing with your cat with some kind of toy or rope, you’ll probably notice them try to hide behind something and jump out at the toy.

In my multi-cat household, one of my cats loves to hide in a box and sit in wait for another cat to walk by. When his next victim eventually goes by, he pounces out of the box to play.

Cats like to pounce from a hidden vantage point, and enjoy the “I can see you, but you can’t see me” mentality that a box provides.

Whether they’re lying in wait to pounce on a catnip toy, a human ankle or even another kitty, your cat loves to hide until the perfect opportunity to strike arises.

To Stay Warm

In addition to boxes, you’ve probably seen photos of cats squeezing into all kinds of weird objects. Shoes, bathroom sinks, a grocery bag — cats have no limits as to what they won’t try and fit into.

But, there is actually a reason for this — your cat is trying to stay warm! A cat’s body temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees fahrenheit, which is warmer than a human’s. Because of this, they’re able to tolerate much hotter temperatures. Cardboard is also a great insulator, so cats know it will keep them warm.

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The perfect temperature for your cat depends on its age and fur length, but it might be too cold at home for your kitty if they’re constantly curling up and hiding for warmth. The average temperature at home is the mid-70s, much colder than a cat’s natural body temp.

If you think your cat is seeking the warmth of a box but don’t want to change the temperature at home, buy them a window perch so they can warm up in the sunlight, or a cat tree you can put somewhere the sun will hit.

To Have a Safe Place to Sleep

Cats sleep anywhere from 12-16 hours per day. In the wild, they would need to find a safe, hidden place to sleep for such a long period of time. Although there aren’t any dangerous predators in your apartment, it’s still instinctual for a cat to want to sleep somewhere safe, hidden and secure.

I’ve had times where I can’t find one of my cats — I live in a small apartment, so it’s a little shocking — and he won’t come out from wherever he is until I shake a bag of treats. Once he finally emerges from wherever he was, he looks all sleepy and starts yawning as he walks over to the treat bag. I still don’t know where he sleeps sometimes, even after looking everywhere I can think of.

If I can’t even find my cat in a 3-bedroom apartment, clearly they’re experts at hiding from both predators and humans.

To Satisfy Their Curiosity

We all know the famous saying about cats and curiosity. One of the more simple reasons a cat will hop right into a box is because it’s new to the environment, and they’re just curious about it. Cats are very territorial, and they know your house well. When something new is added, they have to scope it out.

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If you just got a delivery, took out what you ordered and left the box on the ground, I guarantee your cat will be sitting it once you get back. This box is new territory for your cat, and they love to explore new things. Even if you get your cat a new toy that comes in a box, they might end up enjoying the box more than what you actually bought for them.

I’ve come to the realization that, no matter how much money I spend on something for my cat, they’ll probably like the box more.

There are quite a few reasons why your feline loves to squish into a box — whether they’re cold, playful, nervous or curious. Regardless of all these reasons, it’s still just plain adorable whenever you see your cat hop into a cardboard box.

If you didn’t know whether or not all cats like boxes, they do! Even big cats like lions, tigers and panthers love a good cardboard box.

Jacquelyn Pica

Jacquelyn Pica is cat mom to Bean Man Jones, a 2-year old adopted stray. She's also a top-notch pet writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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