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Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that all the all the cat toys in the world world don’t compare to greatest toy of all – the cardboard box! But why are cats so enchanted by a mere cardboard box? 

Keep reading to discover why cats are obsessed with boxes.

1. Cats Use Boxes For Safety and Security

There are several reasons that cat like boxes, but the most common reasons are safety and security. A 2014 study examined stress levels in shelter cats. The scientists gave “hiding boxes” to a group of new arrivals at the shelter and deprived another group of cats from having boxes.

The cats with the boxes adjusted to shelter life faster, seemed less stressed, and started interacting with their human caretakers quicker than the cats who didn’t have hiding boxes.

Pro Tip – How to Build a “Safe Space” for your Cat: If you are moving or changing your kitty’s home temporarily, it’s always a good idea to take a few empty boxes to the new space.

You can set up a “safe space” box for your cat by placing the box a few feet (or a safe distance) away from a wall with a heating vent. Point the opening of the box toward the wall and throw in some treats as well as a soft towel or something with your scent (t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc.) inside.

Make sure there are no staples or anything else sharp that could poke your cat, and remove any shipping tape or debris your cat might be tempted to gnaw on.

2. Cats Use Boxes to Resolve Conflict & Reduce Stress

In a lot of ways, cats handle conflict like children. Cats like running away and hiding in a safe space for an undetermined amount of time.

The box is cozy, warm, and hides them a bit (or so they think). Even grownups might come home after a bad day, walk straight to their bedroom, and curl up under their favorite blanket. Cats have the same natural instinct to relieve stress.

That being said, just because your cat jumps into a box doesn’t mean he/she stressed. This is only one of the reasons cats like boxes. Most of the time, cats are interested in the box for entirely different reasons.

Just pay attention to the context to see if your cat is using a box to deal with stress or if they’re just playing. If they’re just using it so they can pop out and bite your ankles, there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Over time, cats developed some very strange behavior because because in the wild they are both prey and predators. When acting as predators, cats like to hide so they can use their stealth to their advantage.

2. Cats Like Boxes Because They Are Wired To Hide And Ambush Prey

They also don’t like anyone sneaking up on them; they rely on the element of surprise. Boxes provide a good lair for cats to wait and attack their unsuspecting human’s ankles as they walk by!

3. Cats Like Boxes Because They Are Wired To Hide From Predators

Cats are also wired to behave as prey and hide from other predators. Having someone or something coming up behind them isn’t what they want, and boxes offer some protection from prying eyes.

Some cats even prefer to perch themselves on high ground so they can observe unnoticed. In the wild, these perching spots would have been trees.

Clearly, there are no large wild animals living in your home that your cat should be using a box to hide from, but cats still carry this instinct from their ancestors.

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4. Cats Use Boxes For Warmth

Cats seem to like jamming themselves into all kinds of tight spaces in sometimes uncomfortable looking positions. Some scientists think it could be due to warmth.

According to a study published by the Scientific World Journal ,the ideal temperature for a cat to live in is that’s 86-97ºF. Most people do not keep their homes at this temperature, causing cats to resort to squeezing into small, insulated spaces for warmth. If it fits, they sits!

This can be easily overcome by providing warm areas for them to rest like boxes, heating mats, and insulated cat pods. Click on any of the suggestions below to help keep your cat snug and warm!

DANGER ALERT: Avoiding putting an electrical heating pad in an enclosed space with your cat. They are prone to overheating and can be a fire hazard.

If you choose to use an electrical heating pad, make sure your cat has can easily enter and exit the space with the heating pad so they can escape in the event that the heating pad overheats.

Cats will attempt to defy the laws of physics (and chubbiness) by cramming themselves into the tiniest of boxes. They look rather proud when they accomplish it too.

EXPERIMENT: Try using some blue painters tape to tape a square or rectangle on the floor. See if your cat sits in the taped area. Almost all cats do! This shows how much cats LOVE even the idea of a box.

Conclusion

Scientists are still not entirely sure exactly what it is about boxes that makes cats go crazy. It’s likely due to a combination of the reasons discussed above.

Boxes are not just therapy and warmth, though. They seem to be a way for cats to channel their silly and playful side as well. Or maybe by stuffing themselves into a small space, it reminds them of when they were kittens, all snuggled in together with mom.

No matter what it is, cats are the kings and queens of comfort and stealth, and we may never figure them out completely, which is probably just how they like it.

SUMMARY: Why Do Cats Love Boxes?

  • Cats use boxes for safety and security
  • Cats use boxes to resolve conflict
  • Cats use boxes to reduce stress
  • Cats use boxes for warmth
  • Cats instinctively use boxes to ambush prey
  • Cats instinctively use boxes to hide from predators

QUESTION: Does your cat love boxes? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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2 Replies to “Why Do Cats Like Boxes?”

  1. My cat doesn’t like boxes. She used to like her cube, but hasn’t been in it for several months.

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