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Cats and Boxes

Love and marriage, horse and carriage, peanut butter and jelly, biscuits and gravy, thunder and lightning… You know this game!…

Cats and Boxes

Love and marriage, horse and carriage, peanut butter and jelly, biscuits and gravy, thunder and lightning… You know this game! What else? Cats and boxes! That’s right! Everyone knows how much cats love boxes. You can google it in images and have a literal melt-down from all the adorable pictures. There is even a facebook page titled “Cats in Boxes” where people post all sorts of funny pictures of their cat in a box. Cats have some kind of deep-rooted attraction to boxes. It’s really kind-of odd that they would prefer a manufactured, utility-type of container to nearly every any other type of toy or enclosure, isn’t it?

Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Understanding a cat’s mind still baffles even the most veteran of cat-owners. There are so many unanswered questions as to why cats do the things they do, but this one – the attraction to a box – isn’t too bewildering. It actually makes sense!

1. Boxes Provide Safety and Security for Cats

Orange tabby cat sitting in an old, brown cardboard box
Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Safety and security is probably the number one reason as to why cats find boxes so appealing. Hiding or seeking an enclosed space is a typical cat response to stress or fear. It’s instinctual. When she’s in a box, nothing can sneak up behind her or from the side. She has a direct field of vision to anything approaching. Boxes provide a coping mechanism for a cat, providing comfort and relieving anxiety.

Even hairless Sphynx cats, known for their different temperature regulation due to lack of fur, enjoy the security of boxes. A new environment can be very stressful for a cat and a hiding box helps to make the transition more comfortable.  The Cat Condos at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts give our guests plenty of hiding boxes as each level of their condo provides that comfort and security the felines are looking for. The condos are designed like multi-level cubicles. Cats jump from one cubicle to the next, each level being a 3-sided, boxed-in, private area.

A study was done in a Dutch Animal Shelter by the University of Utrecht whereas a group of 19 new arrivals of cats were divided into two groups. One of the two groups were given “hiding boxes” during their acclimation and socialization period. Stress indicators were measured on both groups of cats, and they found that the cats who were given hiding boxes showed significantly less stress than the group who were not given boxes. They adapted to their new environment more quickly. These anxious, frightened shelter cats found comfort and security with having a box to hide in. Poor little things…

What are some other reasons a cat gravitates to a box?

2. They’re Fun to Play With

Probably the simplest reason a cat is drawn to a box is that it’s just FUN! She can roll around in it, she can jump in and out, pouncing on toys or her owner’s feet when they pass by. Give your cat a little fuzzy ball and she’ll happily play for a while, but give her a cardboard box, and you’ve given her the best thing ever! It’s like a little kitty Disneyland all wrapped up in plain brown paper!

3. Instincts are Kicking In

Speaking of pouncing, a box satisfies your cat’s predatory instinct to hide and pounce on prey. In the wild, cats are predators. Predators will hide and watch… stalking… waiting for the right time to jump out and ambush their prey. Our domestic cats no longer need to hunt for survival, but it sure feels good to play like it!

4. Scratching and Chewing

Cats are notorious scratchers… sharpening their claws on your couch, your curtains, the carpet… Boxes make for great scratching. Cats love the way it feels to sink those little claws into that cardboard. A cat’s paws have scent pads, so when they scratch, they leave their own scent on things. So it makes sense that if they have their own little hiding place, they leave their scent on it to mark the territory as their own.

Some cats are chewers as well. It is believed that they enjoy chewing and tearing up boxes because they are fulfilling their instinct to kill and rip-up her prey. Ewww….

5. Cats Like the Warmth of Boxes

White and brown longhaired kitten sitting in white cardboard box, staring lovingly
Photo by Piotr Musioł on Unsplash

I found this very interesting… A cat is most comfortable in temperatures between 86 -97 degrees. Most people’s homes are around 72 -76 degrees. That’s 14 – 21 degrees colder than a cat’s minimum thermoneutral temperature. So guess what, they’re just cold! Who knew? A corrugated box makes a great insulator.

6. Boxes are Cozy to Sleep In

Don’t waste your money on one of those fancy, expensive cat beds… Just throw a blanket in your little fur-princess’ box and you’ve given her a palace! Boxes provide a cozy, luxurious (in feline opinion) place to sleep. And they’ll sleep better knowing they are safe and hidden too.

Boxes tend to be their favorite, but you’ll find cats curled up in any type of enclosure… their owner’s purse, a suitcase, drawers, the laundry basket, cabinets… anywhere that proves to be a good hiding place. I once posted a picture on facebook of a cat that had snuggled down into a tight, clear vase. Admittedly, it was kind-of scary looking, but so very fascinating that she would even think to crawl in a small vase! After a few comments from people who were spooked by the picture, I deleted it. I had to laugh, though.

How to Safely Prepare a Box for Your Cat

Knowing your cat’s affinity for boxes, here are a few safety precautions you should take when you have empty boxes in your home.

  1. Take the staples out of any boxes that you leave around for your cat. A staple can make for an ugly and painful puncture.
  2. Remove rubber bands, twine, and strings. These items can get tangled or lodged in your cat’s intestines, or even loop around their internal organs causing a blockage. It can be life threatening.
  3. If there is a cut-out for handles on a box, especially the kind where the cut-out portion of the box remains (and kind of flips back and forth), you may want to cut them out fully so that your cat will not choke himself or cut his skin by sticking his head through it. In fact, it would be best to remove any type of handle or strap.
  4. Many cats are attracted to the taste of adhesives. Tape left on a box can be hazardous to them and can cause an intestinal blockage if ingested.
  5. Make sure the box is not lined with plastic or containing plastic of any kind that could potentially suffocate your cat.

Saftey tips to Keep in Mind

Knowing how your cat loves enclosed places, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure your cat doesn’t accidentally climb into the refrigerator. Sadly, it has happened. Know where your cat is when opening and closing the refrigerator.
  2. Likewise, your cat can crawl into your washer or dryer and become trapped. Keep the washer and dryer closed when not in use.
  3. Close the chimney flue… Cats find that dark, hidden hole very tempting.

Interested in more content like this? Check out our post on the 6 myths of cat boarding!

Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Cats primarily find boxes so appealing because they provide a feeling of safety and security. Felines instinctually seek out enclosed spaces to protect against perceived threats, provide comfort, or relieve anxiety from new environments.

Cats may also gravitate toward boxes, cardboard or otherwise, to happily play, roll around, or sharpen their teeth and claws. In addition, since cats prefer temperatures between 86 – 97 °F, boxes are great options to keep themselves warm in cooler homes.

Why Cats Lay On Paper?

Cats prefer temperatures between 86 – 97 °F. Since most people’s homes sit around 72 – 76°F, many felines seek out warmer areas of the house. Paper is a good insulator and can help warm a cat’s paws or body. 

Cats are also naturally attention-seeking and curious creatures, so new objects in their environment, like a sheet of paper you may have dropped, are simply begging to be explored and staked a claim to.

Why Do Cats Like Plastic Bags?

Cats are drawn to plastic bags for many different reasons, like the crinkling sound of the material or the scent and taste of food the bag may have carried. Ironically, many cats seek out plastic bags due to their instinctual need for enclosed spaces to feel safe, but plastic bags can pose a serious choking or suffocation risk. It’s vital for pet owners to keep their cats safe by keeping plastic bags out of reach.

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