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Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Cats and boxes go together like a horse and cart. As far as our feline friends are concerned, nothing compares to those four cardboard walls.

Forget the toys that were delivered in it, you can return those to the store. Wait, no you can’t because you have nothing to pack them in now! What is it about boxes that make them simply irresistible to cats?

Cats don’t just like boxes, they actually need them. In the past, a cat’s primal instincts lead it to seek out confined spaces in which it could hide from predators and lay hidden in wait for prey. Today, our cats particularly like a box because it provides the perfect place to play and sleep.

10 reasons why cats really like boxes are because they provide:

  • Safety and security.
  • A stress-free zone.
  • Satisfaction for their curious natures.
  • A safe haven for regaining composure.
  • The perfect place to hide and pounce from.
  • A warm, draft-free space.
  • Something great to scratch.
  • A cozy place to sleep.
  • Endless fun and games.
  • The perfect confined spot.

Now, let’s look at these reasons in more detail.

cat in small box

Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?

1. Cats Like to Feel Safe and Secure

As mentioned above, cats get a sense of comfort and security from enclosed spaces, hence their adoration of cardboard boxes. They like to hide where predators can’t see them or creep up unnoticed.

In a box, a cat has a vantage point and can see anyone or anything that comes near before it itself is spotted. The cat has the upper hand in this situation.

2. Cats Need a Stress-free Zone

Cats like boxes because the feeling of safety they instill also reduces their stress levels. If you have a nervous cat, placing boxes in strategic locations around your home will give it plenty of places to run and hide.

If you ever move home, boxes may also help your cat to cope with the stress of the complete change to its environment.

3. Cats Love New Things to Investigate

Whenever you bring anything new into the house you can bet your life your inquisitive cat will appear from nowhere to have a nose. If whatever it is comes in a box, then your cat couldn’t be more pleased.

As you unpackage your cat weaves around you and the box impatiently, waiting to take ownership. It will often attempt entry before all the contents have been removed.

The first thing it will do on entry is sniff at the new smells within. Next, it will attempt to eradicate these smells and lay claim to the box by rubbing its own scent all over it.

4. Cats Like Warm, Draft-Free Spots

Cardboard boxes are the perfect place to keep out of the draught. They also provide great insulation and help your cat to keep comfortably warm. A cat’s comfort temperature is higher than ours.

We tend to set our room stats at about 72°F but cats are happier when it’s somewhere between 75° and 78°F, especially as they get older.

So bear this in mind and make sure you treat your cat to a box, especially in the winter months. It will save you a considerable amount in heating bills.

Why Do Cats Like Boxes? The perfect box bed

5. Cats Like Things That Feel Great to Scratch

Have you noticed how any cardboard scratching toys are on the market? Another reason why cats love boxes so much is because of the texture. Cardboard is perfect to scratch and bite.

Place boxes around your house and hopefully your cat will scratch at them over anything else. Not that attractive, I know, but if it saves your furniture it’s worth it.

6. Cats Love Cozy Beds

I have said this on many occasions: why waste your money on a fancy bed when a cat is more likely to prefer to sleep in the box it came in?

As cats can spend up to 20 hours of each day asleep, they do like to find a safe, secure, and warm place to do this. So forget a $50 cave bed and pick up a free box from somewhere instead. Your cat will love it.

7. Cats Like Private Spaces to Regain Composure

Have you ever noticed how your cat can almost sulk with you when you do something that makes it angry, such as trying to remove knots from its fur (in our case)

An angry cat is likely to skulk off somewhere you can’t find it to cool off. A box provides the perfect haven in this situation as the confined space seems to help it to calm down.

8. Cats Need Dens to Hide and Pounce From

This is a game that cats love and a box provides the perfect hiding place to pounce from. This harps back to hunting in the wild where a small confined space provided a safe spot to hunt from whilst providing protection from predators.

9. Cats Have Fun in Boxes

A cat just loves to play around in a box in general. If it has flaps they like to get in and feel totally concealed and then burst back through the top.

I’ve seen cats squeeze into the smallest boxes and end up with their heads and front legs sticking out of one end and their back legs sticking out of the other.

Cat squeezed into a small box

10. Cats Enjoy Confined Spaces

Have you ever wondered why cats sit or lay in small boxes? They just love anywhere they feel confined provided there is one escape route.

As a cat lays in a box that is small enough to touch its sides its brain signals the release of feel-good hormones known as endorphins. A box can literally give a cat the same feeling it experiences when we stroke it. This is why you might notice a cat purring away on its own in a box.

Some people have suggested that the experience of being in a small box reminds a cat of the way it felt when it was in its mother’s womb. This is a logical idea, though I’m not sure how it could ever be proven!

Be Box Clever – Safety First!

Before you give your cat free reign of any box carry out a risk assessment.

Remove any:

  • staples
  • sticky tape
  • plastic lining
  • polystyrene beans
  • bubble wrap
  • string or elastic bands
  • glue residues
  • handles
  • sharp flaps

Check that any cutout handles are not of a size that your cat could get its head trapped in.

As a general rule, ensure you whole house is cat-proof too.

Box Positioning

To help your cat enjoy its boxes to the full, place each one in the optimal position – ideally close to a wall, with the only entrance facing the wall with enough space for your cat to enter and exit.

If your cat misses you when you are out, you could use an old jumper with your scent on as a box-liner.

Box Alternatives

Cats aren’t that fussy about their enclosed spaces. Here are other places where cats love to sit, lay or sleep.

1. A Drawer

Cat in a drawer

I daren’t leave a drawer open as I can guarantee its contents will soon be coated with ginger fur. Thank you, Harry!

2. A Laundry Basket

Cat in laundry basket

I’m sure our Maine Coon Harry (again) likes laying in the laundry basket when we’re out because the clothes are covered in our scent.

3. A Suitcase

Cat in suitcase

Why do cats like suitcases? I believe they are attempting to prevent us from packing them to go away. As soon as we open a suitcase we find a cat sitting in it with a forlorn look on its face.

4. A Black Sack

Cat in black garbage sack

A black sack full of Christmas gift wrap makes a great noise and provides the perfect place to pounce on any other cat that passes by. Don’t leave a cat in this situation unsupervised as plastic bags come with the risk of suffocation.

5. Paper Bag

Why Do Cats Like Boxes? Cat in  paper bag

Paper bags are irresistible. They make fabulous noise and are fun to pounce from. Break the handles to prevent your cat from getting its head stuck in it.

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