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Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

By Stacy Painter
May 12, 2021 • 2 min. read
cat in a box

No doubt you’ve seen it, whether with your own kitty or one on the internet: a cat lounging in a sink, bowl, vase, or especially a cardboard box. Cats are drawn to containers and tend to adopt the “if I fits, I sits” mantra. They’ll even try to fit into boxes that are far too small for them, because box. But why do cats like boxes so much?

Feline instincts

It only takes a quick internet search to find photos of big cats (like lions and tigers) at the zoo also enjoying appropriately sized cardboard boxes. This proves that cats and boxes go together like peanut butter and jelly. And the reason may partly have to do with the instincts of a cat. In the wild, cats appreciate a good hiding spot that can protect them from predators while at the same time allowing them to sneakily stalk their prey. Sitting in a box means they are protected from the bottom and all four sides from anything that might want to sneak up on them.

Using a box to stay warm

At 100.5 to 102.5 degrees, a house cat’s body temperature runs a bit hotter than humans which averages around 98.6 degrees. The temperature to which most of us set our thermostats is actually a little chilly for cats who would be most comfortable in an environment set to 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a 2006 study by the National Research Council. Because cats are always seeking warmth, a box can be a great option. Fitting snugly into a cardboard box can help provide insulation — it’s like a cardboard sweater for your kitty! Committing a fashion faux ‘paw’

Boxes are cozy and reduce stress

Some experts suggest that the secure feeling of a box might mimic the snuggly warmth a kitten feels while cuddling her mother and littermates. This relaxing, comforting feeling can encourage a pleasurable feeling and help reduce stress. In fact, a 2015 study supports the theory that boxes help reduce a cat’s stress levels. Researchers from the University of Utrecht randomly divided new shelter cats into two groups: one group received boxes and the other group did not. 

“Stressful experiences can have a major impact on the cats’ welfare and may cause higher incidences of infectious diseases in the shelters due to raised cortisol levels causing immunodeficiency,” the researchers explained.

After only a few days, they reported that the group of cats that were given boxes recovered faster and adapted to their environment more quickly than the cats without boxes.

It appears to be all pros and no cons when it comes to boxes for cats. Now that you have a peek into the workings of your kitty’s mind, you may not want to be so quick to toss your empty Amazon boxes into the recycle bin!

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for a pet insurance company was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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