Critter Culture
Cats and Boxes: A Storied Love Affair

Cats and Boxes: A Storied Love Affair

Critter Culture Staff



As a cat owner, you've likely experienced your fuzzy pal hunkered down in a box. Despite a soft bed, comfy floor, or an inviting piece of furniture, your feline prefers cardboard. Why is this? What's the irresistible allure?

There's many reasons why cats, on the whole, love boxes. Whether physical, psychological, sensory, or intellectual, your fur baby's attraction to cardboard containers has a few specific motives.


An inherent feline tendency

Curious cat inside the torn cardboard box looks out through the round hole 101cats / Getty Images

A love affair with cardboard isn't limited to house cats. Large cats like them, too. In zoos and on wildlife reserves, witnessing a tiger or lion playing with a box isn't an uncommon scene. Felines across the board tend to favor this type of container. There's an instinct for kitties big and small to enjoy boxes.

Remember that cats are hunters. They have an inborn tendency to stalk and nab prey. Being in a box provides them with this feeling, satisfying their instilled sense to watch and wait before jumping out to ambush their meal.


A comforting stress reducer

cat inside a box Andypott / Getty Images

Why do kitties like boxes so much? One reason has to do with comfort. Cats are fans of enclosed areas, seeking solace in being confined. To them, it's like a giant hug that doesn't let up.

Whenever a cat feels stressed, they prefer to hide from whatever it is that's scaring them. A cardboard box is the go-to place to ground themselves while feeling something close to an embrace.


Adapting to their environment

Lazy long hair cat lying inside carton box on the ground. Photo by Rafa Elias / Getty Images

When you invite a new cat or kitten into your home, there's definitely a transition period involved. Studies show that felines who have a cardboard box refuge tend to demonstrate less stress when in a new environment. Finding tender comfort in this hiding space, they're apt to adapt to their new surroundings much quicker than cats who have no established privacy area.


Safety and security

Cat in a box kmsh / Getty Images

Along the lines of comfort and transitioning into a new environment, safety and security are also glaring reasons for this feline instinctual behavior. A cardboard box can feel like a special place: it's the kitty's home within a home.

Think of their box as a lookout tower. When the kitty's inside, nothing can sneak up on them from the sides or behind. They have the perfect line of sight: a direct field of vision to whatever is approaching.


A great insulator

Curious cat is looking at what's inside the cardboard box 101cats / Getty Images

Cats like warm temperatures. Typically, they prefer conditions to be a bit higher than the average home's climate. Their ideal comfort zone is 86-97 degrees Fahrenheit. When you look at it from this perspective, it's easy to see why a cat would like a small, cozy space: they're feeling a bit cold. Corrugated cardboard acts as a wonderful insulating material.


The ideal sleeping quarters

sphynx kitten sleeping under table in box NataBene / Getty Images

With this sense of warmth, safety, comfort, and security, it's no wonder that a cardboard box is an ideal sleeping area for a cat. It doesn't offer the exposure they're subjected to in a pet bed or other open area.

Instead of trying to deter your pal from this type of makeshift bedroom setup, accept it and try to make it more comfortable. Remove any staples, twine, tape, string, or other non-cardboard materials, as they can pose a threat. Eliminate any small cutout areas or handles since these are prime spots for injury or choking risks. Add a soft blanket, and your furry friend will be in heaven.


A great scratching post

kitten clawing and biting at hole in cardboard box SilverV / Getty Images

It's no secret that cats like to claw at things. Cardboard boxes provide the perfect outlet for this habit. They're a great diversionary tool to keep a pet from damaging furniture, carpets, drapes, clothing, or skin. Paws have scent pads on them, so this act also allows your kitty to mark their territory.

Cardboard is a great texture for chewing as well. Some cats will shred boxes with their mouths and claws. This tearing action has its roots in the animal's instinct for hunting. Scratching and chewing simulates ripping and eating prey. In this regard, the box is a target of attack.


Kitty is curious

Cat in a moving box harpazo_hope / Getty Images

Cats are curious. Especially if you bring a new boxed item into your home, it's their duty to investigate. Its smell, shape, and touch are all quite new to your feline, making this unfamiliar addition irresistible to their heightened senses. Your kitty can't help but want to know more about this foreign object.


It's just plain fun

Kitten playing in a cardboard lisegagne / Getty Images

Face it: being in a box is fun. Remember playing in them as a child? Often, the packaging was used more than the toy it contained.

Cats adore playtime, and a box provides such an outlet. It's a catch-all toy that offers so many fun ways to amuse and entertain.


Better safe than sorry

cat in a box ElenaNichizhenova / Getty Images

Yes, it's cute to watch a cat playing in a box. But it's important to make sure it's a safe area for them. In addition to removing potential hazards, be on the lookout for anything other than cardboard. Liners made of plastic, for example, can suffocate your buddy. Make sure the box is entirely empty before allowing your cat to play, hide, or sleep inside.

Always keep a watchful eye when your cat is in such a confined area. And remember that it will prefer similar spots, too. Be mindful of any small spaces within your home. Cats can get into dangerous enclosures like dryers, refrigerators, drawers, and chimneys if you're not careful. Keeping a box around could very well act as a distraction and safer alternative to these places.


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