Cats Explained: Why Our Feline Friends Love Boxes

Posted by Crystal Long
Grey cat tucks away in its cardboard box.

Any past or present cat owner would know: for your pet cat, there's really no cat toy that can quite measure up to a simple cardboard box.

They go together like peanut butter and jelly... Yes, we are talking about cats and cardboard boxes. While we can say we understand dogs, I think it's safe to say that cats, on the other hand, still remain a bit of a mystery. However, as much as cat behaviors (like why do they spy on me? Or why do they stare at the walls?) might be a little hard to decode -- especially if you have a new cat -- we do know one thing for sure: cats love empty boxes!

And it's any box really. Whether it be a big box, small box, or just a simple cardboard box, whether they fit or not, you can be dang sure that Fluffy will be in it in no time. But what is it about a box or any enclosed space for that matter (things like bags, suitcases, and laundry baskets) that cats seem to be magically drawn to it?

Why Do Cats Love Boxes?

The short answer is because boxes and such are confined spaces and, that folks, provides the comfort and security that felines need -- sort of like a "safe zone," if you will.

When cats encounter stressful situations, their first instinct is to run and hide: and a box serves as the perfect hiding place. But mostly, cats get a sense of comfort and security from enclosed spaces, which being in an empty box definitely fits the bill! Felines feel 100% safe in a box, as they feel that any "predator" who comes their way must come into their field of vision and can't just sneak up -- this gives them enough protection to lower stress.

One Ethologist put this to the test. As Wired reported in a study on stress levels in shelter cats by Ethologist Claudia Vinke,

"Working with domestic cats in a Dutch animal shelter, Vinke provided hiding boxes for a group of newly arrived cats while depriving another group of them entirely. She found a significant difference in stress levels between cats that had the boxes and those that didn't. In effect, the cats with boxes got used to their new surroundings faster, were far less stressed early on, and were more interested in interacting with humans."

Other than as a hiding spot or to provide comfort, cardboard boxes can also keep cats warm. As cardboard itself is a great insulator, boxes provide a warm, safe, and snug small space for your feline to curl up and relax with insulation to retain body heat. Boxes also make a great hunting hideout -- perfect for, you know, those sneak attacks where they pounce on your poor unsuspecting feet!

Do you have a cat that loves shoving themselves in a box? Share your story on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

READ MORE: Cardboard Boxes Are Cat Traps, But Will Box Outlines Work the Same Way?

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Cats Explained: Why Our Feline Friends Love Boxes