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Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons Behind the Behavior

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat in a box looking up

Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons Behind the Behavior


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

How many times have you cut a delivery box open only to turn around and find your cat has already made themself at home inside of it? Probably every time. A cat’s natural curiosity draws them in, and then their instincts take over the moment they see 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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The 6 Reasons Cats Like Boxes

1. Security and Comfort

This point is one of the main reasons why cats love boxes so much. 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 a housecat is the next best thing.

2. Hunting Prey

A cat’s instincts to hide and pounce in order to capture their 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.

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

3. Warmth

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.

4. Great Place to Sleep

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.

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

5. Play Area

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 allow them to leave their scent and safely destroy something that can easily (and cheaply) be replaced.

6. Avoiding Situations

Cats may act in two different ways toward conflict resolution 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.

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

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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, 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 also clean it so that it doesn’t retain your cat’s pheromones or the vet clinic’s scent, and then place a blanket or towel that they sleep on inside. You can also put some of their favorite toys inside and just leave the carrier with the door open so they can come and go as they please.

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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 their safety.

  • If the box has handles cut into the sides, you should cut them all the way through to prevent your cat from sticking their 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 their 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 them ingesting any. There’s also the danger of suffocation.
  • Ensure you remove any staples from the box since they can harm 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 Credit: Charles Betito, Pixabay

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