why do cats like boxes so much

Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

by Amy Smith - 9/3/19

Have you ever noticed your cat jumping into empty packing boxes around your house? Although a box might not look like the coziest napping spot, cats seem to love snuggling up in cardboard boxes. While scientists aren’t sure of the exact reason for this strange attraction, here are a few hints as to why your cat likes boxes so much.

Predators in Domestic Surroundings

Cats are predators. In the wild, they survive by hunting rodents, birds and other small animals for food. Their hunting tactics often include stalking and ambushing, so finding and using cover is instinctive behavior. While domestic cats might not get many opportunities to hunt wildlife, they still have the urge to hide, stalk and pounce. A box may seem like the perfect hiding place for an imaginary or “practice” hunt that forms part of their natural predatory behavior.

Another natural cat behavior is scratching. Cats must scratch to keep their claws healthy and to mark their territory. Some cats find cardboard great scratching material.

A Place to Get Away From It All

Cats may also use boxes as hiding places to relieve stress and relax. In one study, some shelter cats were assigned a box upon intake while others were not. Those given boxes became acclimated to their new environment much more quickly and showed lower levels of stress than those not given boxes. This may indicate that cats use enclosed hiding places as a retreat from stressful and overwhelming environments. So when your cat disappears into a box, it may be placing itself in a temporary time-out to process an overload of stress.

A Warmer Spot

Another possible reason that cats like boxes is the warmth that the insulation of cardboard provides. A recent study shows that cats are most comfortable in temperatures of 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, that’s quite a bit higher than the normal cat owner’s home or even the outdoor temperature in many areas, and it may be why cats seek out small covered spaces like boxes to create a nest for extra warmth.

Adding Boxes to Kitty’s Home

Whatever the reasons behind your cat’s love of boxes, practically speaking, it’s enough to know that it does enjoy a good box. You can bring fun, warmth and perhaps a sense of relaxation to your cat’s surroundings by maximizing its access to boxes and box-like areas. The easiest option is simply to provide a few extra cardboard boxes around the house for its nesting pleasure. You can add blankets, towels or old T-shirts for extra softness. If you’re feeling creative, you can connect some boxes (make sure your creation is sturdy enough) to make a cardboard castle or jungle gym. With a little imagination, you can turn your cat’s love of boxes into an enriching environment and make it love you forever!

Amy Smith is a writer, specializing in family and parenting topics. She teaches English, Latin, and music at a private school and lives with her husband and five children on a small homestead in rural Pennsylvania.