Cats and Boxes: What's the Deal?

If you have a box laying around, you have probably experienced your cat jumping into it. Maybe you could not find your furry friend for a few minutes and then discovered that they were nestled down into the box. Or maybe they hopped in as soon as you took the new microwave out of the box. Regardless of the circumstances, cats seem to be drawn to boxes. Why is that? Let’s answer the question, “Why do cats like boxes?”

A Degree of Security

Boxes provide your cat with a comfortable place to hide while watching the world go by, particularly when they are stressed. Cats tend to prefer resting or sitting in enclosed spaces. One possible reason for this is that intruders or possible predators cannot sneak up on them; instead, your cat's possible attackers are going to come at them directly from their field of vision. The lack of surprise is extremely relaxing for your feline friend.

Also, boxes have been associated with reduced stress levels. In one study, found in the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, shelter cats were assigned to a group that either received a box or did not get a box. The cats were evaluated on how well they adapted to their new environment. The kitties that received a box were more relaxed and adapted to their environment much more readily than the cats that were assigned to a group without a box.

If something in your home environment is changing, from having family stay over to moving to a new place, providing your cat with a box or boxes can help them feel more in control and less stressed. Sure, they might spend a little more time in the box while they are adapting, but that is a cat for you; they tend to hide from their problems. Eventually they will settle down.

A Layer of Warmth

The cardboard that most boxes are made out of provides a level of warmth and insulation. This is especially helpful for your cat whose body temperature is significantly higher than the ambient temperature that most of us keep our houses. While they are around 100F, most houses are kept around 72F.

Your cat's new cardboard box is a great place for them to relax, curl up and take a snooze. Combining their body temperature and the insulation of the cardboard box, your cat will settle in and relax rather quickly. In addition to the warmth factor, cats like to be in a snug place, which boxes often provide, making them an ideal place to take a cat nap.

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Cardboard boxes are also a great place to play. Cats can play hide and seek with each other and their humans when they have a box or boxes to play in. Cats are also quite curious creatures, so having a new cardboard box laying around gives them the opportunity to investigate (and likely curl up to take a nap). The box has a new smell and it has not been marked as your cat's territory yet, so do not be surprised if your cat rubs their scent glands all over the box as their way of saying, "Mine!"

Cardboard boxes also have an interesting texture for cats. Your cat is able to sink their claws into the box and it yields with an often-satisfying rip. Your cat can mark the box with their claws and even bite into the box, something that many cats find a fascinating experience. Don't be surprised if you have to get a new box for your cat because they have demolished the first one!

Preparing a Box for Your Kitty

There are a few key takeaways when you give your cat a new box to hide, sleep and play in. Don't be surprised if they spend a lot of time there initially; they still want to spend time with you, but the box is something new to investigate. Make your cat's box a comfortable place for them to relax. Put a blanket in the box or even one of your old t-shirts, particularly if you have to travel and will be leaving your feline family member in the care of a trusted pet sitter.

Tips for Preparing the Perfect Box for Your Feline

  • Make sure to remove any staples or adhesive tape from the boxes. While the staples can cut them, the tape is also a worry because cats may chew and try to eat it, and it can cause an obstruction. Also make sure to remove any string from the boxes which can also be dangerous for your cat to chew into.
  • Take any plastic out of the box so that your cat is not in danger of suffocating themselves.
  • Also make sure that your cat can safely get in and out of the box. If there are any openings, such as handles, widen them so that your cat will not get their head stuck in the opening.

In Summary

Boxes are a great place for your cat to sit back and relax. They like them for a variety of reasons, from playing with them like a toy to using them as a cozy place to sleep. Especially if you are having any changes in your household, you should provide your cat with a box.