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Why Do Cats Love Boxes?

cat peeking out of a cardboard box

Are There Reasons For Cats to Like Boxes? 

As a cat owner (or lover!) you probably know the sheer disappointment of buying your cat a cool new toy, but instead of showing any excitement, they make a beeline for the empty box instead.

It’s pretty widely known that cats just really like boxes. If there is a box, there is usually a cat in it. It can be extremely amusing, but it can also be really confusing.

Why do cats love boxes so much? Let’s look at why cats prefer the packaging of the gifts you buy them much more than the gift itself. 

Why Do Cats Like Boxes? 

There are plenty of reasons why cats like boxes. Some of these could be about the cat’s personality, while others are more instinct-based.

Boxes Make Cats Feel Safe 

Boxes are small, enclosed spaces, and cats like the comfort and security this provides them. Think of how kids sometimes sit in a closet when they’re upset - it’s somewhat similar to that, though cats don’t always seek out boxes when they’re sad.

For cats, it’s more to do with how much safety they think they get from it. After all, if you’re pressed to the wall on every side, there’s no risk of a predator sneaking up on you. That’s why cats like sitting in a box because they can’t get attacked by an unexpected enemy. If anyone tries to attack a cat in a box, they’d have to come from within the cat’s field of vision, and that would help them prepare to defend themselves.

Cats don’t like conflict - they’d much rather run and hide from the problem when they can. They may hiss, but most cats don't want to be bothered with a fight. This means that boxes become something like safe zones for your cat, where they can reduce stress. Just like a child running off to the closet, cats do like the comfort of boxes, though most times they like the safety of the box as a whole. 

Cats may dislike a lot of things, but cardboard boxes sure aren’t part of that list! 

Boxes Help Cats to Adapt

It may be surprising, but boxes can actually help with adaptation! 

This is especially true for cats who are moved to a new environment. If you adopted your cat recently and they seem to spend all their time in boxes, it’s because of the way boxes help cats get used to new places.

Any kind of sudden new situation can induce anxiety - this is true for humans, and it’s also true for cats. Research on Animal Behavior shows that cats who have boxes are much quicker to adapt to a new environment and recover from the anxiety it causes them than cats who don’t. 

A cat peeking out of a cardboard box

This may be because of the fact that boxes are comfortable and again, make cats feel safe. Regardless, it is definitely true that boxes help get rid of some of the anxiety cats feel around moving  to a new place.

Boxes are for Insulation

Who doesn’t like the feeling of being cozy? Cats love warmth, and seek it out as they try to find themselves a place to sleep in. 

On top of all the other benefits of boxes for cats, cardboard boxes have the added bonus of being super comfortable. Since cardboard is a good insulator, it makes the small box a great place for a cat to simply curl up and sleep. 

Cats have a high body temperature of their own, so they like higher environmental temperatures as well to stay warm. Anything around 98 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) works, and they’re much more likely to find that in a warm cardboard box than lying on the cold hard floor.

However, the breed of cat and the weather also makes a difference here. If it’s already very hot, your cat probably won’t be found in their box. Cats with longer hair also don’t spend as much time in boxes, since their fur keeps them warm.

Because cats spend such a large part of their day sleeping (about 18 hours!) they need to find the perfect spot. Not only do they have to be safe from predators (even if there aren’t really any around) but they also have to be comfortable.

If I Fits, I Sits

You may have heard of this principle somewhere, but more likely, you’ll have seen it in action. Cats definitely like the comfort of boxes, but they also happen to find very odd places to sit in. For example, some cats like to sit in the sink, while some will fit themselves into bowls and even cups. 

If your cat can fit into any place, they deem it a suitable place for them to relax. It may not look like a comfortable fit to you, but your cat disagrees.

Not all of these places are necessarily warm or comfortable (a sink sure isn’t, but many cats still like to sit in the sink) so the most likely explanation is that they are seeking safety from predators.

It may be because all of these places make cats feel covered on all sides, and thus, safe, but it may also be some weird cat quirk that makes them want to fit in whatever container they can find. For us, we can just call it the If I Fits, I Sits principle.

cat lying in a box


Another reason cats love boxes so much may be the texture. Cats like biting and scratching, and the texture of cardboard is perfect for this. Forget a safe haven, some cats like boxes solely because they are so fun to chew apart. 

While it can be a pain to clean up, boxes do make fun and interesting toys for your cat. They can keep them entertained for long stretches of time, and keep your upholstery safe at the same time. 

Cats also like scratching up the box because the scent on their toe glands will leave their mark on the box. Even if the box has been ripped to shreds, it’s still their box, and they want to make sure everyone knows that. 

Cat Curiosity


Cats are notoriously curious - to the point that they have an entire idiom based on their curiosity. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when your cat sees something new and strange, they would want to be the first to investigate.

Cats are clever. They don’t just want to see what this new object is, they want to smell it, taste it, touch it. They would want to know what exactly the purpose of this strange new item is. Because cats don’t have hands, they will explore the world around them with the rest of their bodies. That means that your cat may climb into the packaging of something new just to check it out.

Watch out as suitcases also make great hiding places for cats. (Your cat may be curious as to where you are going, or they just want to come along on your trip 😉)

Cat sitting in a suitcase

In the process of satisfying their curiosity cats may find additional benefits of checking out a new hiding place, like the safety and comfort mentioned above. Most likely though, if your cat came to inspect a cardboard box, they were just curious about what it is. After that, they may easily make it their new favorite hangout spot though.

Cat Instinct

Quite a lot of cat behaviors have something or the other to do with instinct, and their love for boxes just might be one of them. If you think your house cat is just being silly when they develop a sudden strong affection for a cardboard box, think again! It may be because of their instincts.

When big cats in wildlife reserves were given cardboard boxes, they had pretty much the same reaction as your housecat probably does. Not only do big cats also like sitting in boxes (if they fit, of course, and many cats do somehow manage), they also like sleeping in them and playing around with them.

It may just be in cats’ nature to like cardboard boxes, but most likely a lot of this behavior is driven by the fact that boxes are small and enclosed spaces.

What you see is a cardboard box, but your cat sees a safe, luxury spot for them to relax in.

Giving Your Cat a Gift Box

So by now it’s probably obvious that cats love boxes, but are they really as safe as cats seem to think they are?

Well, they’re not exactly unsafe, but if you are going to gift a box to your cat you should keep some things in mind... 

For one, make sure that any boxes your cat plays with are short enough for them to jump in and out of easily. You don’t want to make your cat feel stuck and unsafe in a place they go to de-stress. 

Also, make sure that the box doesn’t have any packing items sticking on it. If you are re-using a gift box that someone gave you for your kitty cat, make sure it doesn't have anything small or loose that can harm your cat. For eg. tape can get stuck on your cat’s fur, which can be irritating. Other more harmful things like ribbons or staples can even injure your cat!

cat sitting under the Christmas tree with presents

If you are thinking of what to give your kitty, there are lots of great cat gift ideas that are fun for both you and your cat.  

However, if your kitty insists on playing with cardboard boxes, make sure to keep them safe by removing anything dangerous from the box and also putting the box in a safe location. As cats go into their boxes for some quiet time, place the box where there isn’t a lot of noise, and your cat can get some privacy. 

You might even make it an even more luxurious napping spot by adding a pillow and blanket, as well as some toys. If you are a creative sort, you can also make a great DIY cat house out of cardboard.

Just remember to keep it away from any heaters or electrical appliances, though. 

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