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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.