Have You Ever Asked, “Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?”

It seems universal among cats, that they all find much pleasure and satisfaction from sitting or curling up inside a box. So, why do cats like boxes so much?

Size doesn’t seem to matter. A cat will try to fit into any container, small or large, and sometimes he just doesn’t fit very well. The cat does not seem to care.

When I lived with my three cats and a dog on Spruce Island, I observed this love of boxes with my fur babies. Sam Cat gave me the biggest chuckle. I had a round cake pan definitely too small to handle a large cat. However, if I sprinkled some catnip in that pan, Sam would get in it and try his best to roll around in the catnip.

He couldn’t accept that the pan would not hold all of the cat, and he’d do his best to fit. The results were hilarious to watch.

So, what is the fascination? In my research, I discovered several reasons for this love of boxes. Let’s look at them here:

Boxes Feel Safe

Cats love boxes mainly because the container represents a confined, enclosed space. This enclosed space can fit several purposes.

1) The enclosed space gives them comfort or security

2) Because a cat likes to ambush his prey, he can hide and hunt prey while feeling completely safe

3) The box also provides a hiding place for the cat, so no predator can sneak up on him. If an intruder comes close, the cat will see it immediately.

4) Boxes help reduce stress, offering a safe zone for observing but not necessarily being seen.

Obviously, if the box is in the house, kitty will not be worried too much about predator or prey, but a message from his instinct quota might tell him, “Safe! Safe!”

In a recent study conducted by the University of Utrecht, researchers discovered a new reason why cats love boxes. The study took place in a shelter, in which half the cats were given boxes in their cages, and the other half were not.

Researchers found that the cats with the boxes actually recovered faster in this new situation than did the non-box cats. The box cats adapted to the shelter environment faster. Thus, we can see that boxes can be very beneficial for cats in helping them to deal with change and stress.

Cats Like To Be Warm

Your cat’s normal body temperature can range from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees. Because of their body temperature, they seem most comfortable in temperatures from 86 to 97 degrees. Since we humans keep our homes around 72 degrees, the cat finds the box an added bit of insulation.

Sam Cat and Poo overflowing a basket

To make the box more alluring, place it a couple of feet from the wall and turn the opening toward it. Thus, kitty has more privacy and gets more of the feel that this box could become a safe place to hide out.

Cat Curiosity

Because your cat is by nature a curious creature, of course he will want to investigate that box. He will smell it and try to determine its use.

Once the cat determines that the box does not seem to have a specific use, he will treat it as his own, making whatever use of it he finds most satisfying.

Big cats like boxes too

It’s A New Nap Spot

As you know, cats sleep up to 18 hours a day. Thus, it becomes important to them to find the perfect sleep spot. What could serve the purpose better than a box that helps keep them warm and gives them privacy and a way to hide from the world?

To the cat, the box becomes a cave, promising warmth and protection. It’s also a good hiding place if kitty needs to escape the happenings around him. Give your cat such a box, which allows him to hide out if he feels the need.

Cardboard Texture Can Afford Satisfaction

A box becomes a perfect place for a cat to play, because he can bite and scratch the box and no one will object. Your cat might bite and chew the box until it ends up a mass of shredded cardboard!

In Kodiak, Uptight Cat loved to chew on the edges of cardboard boxes. It seemed to me that the box provided an excellent way for him to clean his teeth, as he repeatedly gnawed on the box edges. It must have felt good to his gums as well, giving them a little massage when he chewed.

Keep The Box Safe For Kitty

When you give your cat a box to play or sleep in, be sure to check the cardboard, and remove all the staples you find. If the cat, while chewing on the box, bites into a staple, it could cause a puncture wound that could become infected.

Also, remove any string used to fasten the box. These can become a risk if the cat ingests them.

Put the box on a surface where it won’t tip over. Place it on its largest side to prevent such accidents.

If you plan to move and pack boxes for that purpose, make sure the cat has not hidden in one of these. It would not be good to seal him into a moving box!

A Place To Escape

At times a cat may want to escape unwanted attention. Because a cat does not have a good strategy for conflict resolution, he may run to the box to hide as a kind of coping mechanism.

A box becomes just one popular enclosed space for kitty to explore. He may also try to fit in any enclosed space: Drawers, large pots, or a big favorite, shopping bags, may provide the perfect secure space.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Paper bags seem to run a close second to boxes. Many cats also seem to find a large grocery bag a great hideout. Loose Cat did a funny thing with a paper bag.

We had an easy chair he liked to sleep on. We’d open a paper bag and stand it up with the open end next to the chair seat where the cat rested. Loose Cat would stare and stare into that paper bag until he seemed to become hypnotized by it.

Then he’d gradually slide forward until he fell into the opening of the bag. The bag would fall on its side, with the cat inside. He’d go to sleep there, happy with his new “cat cave.”

Have You Witnessed This Behavior?

Here’s another strange behavior: Draw a circle on the floor, or form it with paper or twisted twine. The cat will sit down inside the circle and stay there as if he couldn’t get out. Bizarre!

Sometimes a small box like a shoe box can make a big hit. Early in our marriage, my husband, Alan, brought home a tiny kitten that we then adopted. It had been taken from its mother too soon, so we fed it with a doll bottle. I had a toilet seat cover made out of some material that made it similar to a sheepskin.

I put that cover inside and over the edges of the show box, where it fit perfectly, providing a soft floor and walls. The little kitten would get in the show box and knead it vigorously, sucking on the fur sides as if it were his mother.

The box didn’t offer a lot of food value, but it seemed an adequate replacement for the missing mother.

If your cat wants to spend time in a cardboard box, or in any kind of cat-sized container, let him be. He will feel warm and secure, and the container will help reduce any stress he may have.

This small space will help him adapt and de-stress, and it will help to make him a happier cat.

References I used for this post



12 thoughts on “Have You Ever Asked, “Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?””

    • Cats do like small enclosed spaces, and they don’t seem to have a sense of proportion. They often try to fit in a container that is simply too small. Gotta give them points for trying, I guess.

  1. I have observed this about cats but I hadn’t thought mcuh about it as you have done.

    This is a well written article, the thoughtfulness and observation speak volumes.

    I know that Catnips smell good for kitties which makes sense because when you sprinkled them in a warm box what would you expect from the fun loving pet.

    Thats double – A good scent and a warm box

    • Most cats do love catnip. I believe there are about 30% of them that do not react.

      All my cats have loved boxes. I’ve often wondered why, so it was fun researching this topic. Glad you liked the result.

  2. We do have two cats and they both like boxes and paper bags. They get into a box or paper bag and go to sleep.

    We bought Lucy – Cat an igloo type cat bed and I thought I wonder if Lucy will get into this; one morning I woke up and looked for Lucy who always seeps on my bed and I heard a sound and looked. Lucy was in the Igloo.

    I was so happy that she found a nice warm place to sleep in and to hide from our other cat – Lucky.

    We always have a laugh when there are boxes available and the cats get into them.  

    I really enjoyed reading your article 


    • Thank you, Elke! Cats are such fun to watch, as you never know what they will do next. I understand their love of boxes, but really have to laugh when they try to fit into a container too small for them. Anything that helps us laugh is good for our health, so glad to find my cats so amusing.

  3. I have always thought about this! No matter how many toys I’d get my cat, she always ended up inside a shoe box or any other box that she could find regardless of if she could fit or not. I gave up on getting her toys and instead I just have a pile of boxes in one of my rooms where she spends most of her time. As humans, we all have our comfort “something”, for cats, that something is their boxes and it completely makes sense. As long as they feel comfortable and safe then it’s okay with me. 

    • Oh, I do agree. If a cardboard box will make Kitty happy, I am more than happy to provide one. As you are concerned about your cat’s comfort and safety, I’m guessing you are a good cat mom.

  4. I think I am now an accommodations expert for cats after reading this very good post. It makes complete sense that a cat would find a box a safe space to cocoon for their 18 hours nap time and to feel warm. So thoughtful of you to remind us that the box must be carefully selected, positioned and not have staples or extra sharp edges. 

    • Yes, they do love their boxes. They don’t seem to be able to gauge size very well, though, as they often take on the challenge of getting in a box far too small for them. Silly cats!


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