Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Have you ever bought new toys or a towering cat tree for your kitty, only for him to be much more excited about the box it came in? You’re not alone. Cats seem to possess an unexplainable fascination with boxes. But why do cats love boxes?

Simply put, what’s just a simple cardboard box to us is much more to our feline friends. To cats, a box isn't just a container—it's a cozy hideaway, a playground, and a source of endless fun. Let's uncover some of the reasons why cats like boxes.

1. Boxes Are Safe Spaces and Cozy Caves

In the wild, small, hidden spaces protect cats from predators. A box is a secure, enclosed environment that triggers a cat's natural instinct to find a safe den. Curling up in a box lets a cat keep watch while feeling hidden and safe. And because cats typically sleep up to 12–16 hours a day, finding the ideal (and safe!) spot to snooze is important to them.

2. Boxes Are Hunting Grounds

Even though your cat may be a pampered pet, their hunting instincts are still alive and well. Cats are ambush predators, which means they hide until their prey passes by.

Even though our companion cats don’t need to hunt for survival, boxes provide a confined place where they can pretend they are in the wild, hiding while they prepare to pounce on their prey (which may be our feet or their feline housemate passing by!).

3. Boxes Provide Warmth

Cats love warmth. According to a 2006 study by the National Research Council, cats are most comfortable in temperatures between 86–97 F. The same group also found that most cats live in environments maintained at about 72 degrees, which is significantly cooler than their preferred temperature zone.

Boxes help to keep things toasty for our feline friends. The cardboard acts like a cozy blanket, trapping the cat's body heat and acting as an insulator. The confined space of a box forces a cat to curl up into a ball, which also helps to preserve body heat.

4. Boxes Are Kitty Playgrounds

Have you ever noticed your cat pouncing in and out of a box, or even attacking its corners? The crinkly texture and confined space of cardboard makes for an enriching sensory experience. Cardboard is the perfect texture for a cat to bite, scratch, and shred.

5. Boxes Are Fun to Explore

Cats are curious creatures, and boxes present an exciting world of exploration. Cats love investigating new things, and a new box, with its smells and textures, represents a new puzzle that must be unraveled. Cats may peek or hop into the box to explore it.

6. Boxes Relieve Stress

A study from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands showed that newly arrived shelter cats who had access to boxes recovered faster and adapted quicker to their new environment compared to cats who did not have access to boxes.

Because boxes offer an opportunity to hide, they provide comfort and security, which are crucial when cats are feeling stressed or anxious. Cats may nestle in the safe haven of a box to take a break from the outside world.

7. Boxes Mediate Relationships

Cats lack refined conflict resolution skills, so they prefer to avoid negative interactions by avoiding others or hiding away. When tensions arise with family members—be that with humans or fellow pets—the refuge of a box offers the cat a chance to recalibrate and de-stress before resorting to confrontation.

8. Boxes Are Personal Kingdoms

Cats have scent glands on their faces. When they rub their faces on the sides of a box, they leave behind their scent. This marks the box as their own special domain.

So, next time you spot your cat dive into an empty box, remember it's not just cardboard—it's a world of adventure, coziness, and comfort for your furry friend.

Featured Image: Adobe/Konstantin Aksenov

Alison Gerken, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident)


Alison Gerken, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident)


Dr. Alison Gerken is a second-year resident in veterinary behavior at the Florida Veterinary Behavior Service under the mentorship of...

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