Cats are notoriously quirky creatures. As independent as they are, they would probably hate the idea of being put into a proverbial box. Physical boxes, though, are a completely different story!
If you’re a cat owner, chances are you’ve found your kitty hiding in a cardboard box at some point or another. (Not to mention under the bed, in the sink, behind the couch, or even in your freshly washed pots and serving bowls.) This is because cats are instinctively drawn to confined spaces.
But why, exactly, do cats love boxes and other snug spaces so much?
Hiding and Hunting
Cats are natural predators, meaning they have an instinct to both hide and hunt.
When hiding in a box, your kitty knows that an intruder or potential predator would have to come up to her space in order to find her, meaning it’s not as easy to catch her by surprise. If she’s hiding in an enclosed box with one opening, she is simultaneously hidden and able to watch the world around her. In a box, she’s not nearly as vulnerable as she would in a wide-open space.
Because of your cat’s natural prey drive, she also likes to hunt, chase, and pounce. The box provides a perfect hiding spot where she can assess the situation and come up with an action plan before pouncing on her prey (even if it’s just a toy).
Safety, Warmth, and Comfort
While humans may feel claustrophobic at the thought, cats tend to prefer smaller boxes over large ones. The smaller the box and the taller the walls, the warmer the space. Cats spend most of their time sleeping, so finding the right box to cozy up in is a high priority for your kitty. In a small, snug box, your cat can curl up and make space even warmer and comfier. Plus, the gentle pressure of the box’s walls against your kitty can feel like a warm, calming hug.
Once your cat has found her favorite box, make it even cozier by placing a blanket or pillow inside. Don’t be surprised if you find your kitty regularly kneading her comfy nest!
Of course, it’s only logical that a safe, warm, comfortable, space would also provide some stress relief.
Similar to crates for dogs, boxes are like safe spaces for cats. If you find that your cat retreats to her favorite box or confined space during stressful moments, you can feel assured that she has found a space in your home where she can feel safe and comfortable.
If you’re adopting a new kitty (or transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor environment), it’s a good idea to make sure she has a box or other snug space completely to herself so she can find a spot to relax while she adjusts to her new environment. Cats are territorial by nature, so knowing that she owns that space will be helpful, too. Help her understand that the space is just for her by placing treats or toys in the box.
Chances are, your cat hasn’t spent time in that favorite box of hers outside of your home. In her eyes, the box magically appeared, and suddenly she had a cozy space for cat naps.
Her carrying crate, on the other hand, may bring up stressful memories of car rides or vet visits. As a result, she won’t consider her crate to be a safe space.
Cats are simply curious by nature, and love to explore. Anytime you bring home bags of groceries or get a new online delivery, your kitty likely jumps at the chance to sniff and touch the new items as you’re putting them away. If your new items come in boxes, it’s only natural that your cat is excited to explore the smells and textures of the new box… and see how well she fits.
The texture of cardboard boxes is also incredibly appealing to most cats. It’s chewable and scratchable, and sometimes even flippable. Because of its soft-yet-firm texture, you may find your kitty rubbing her face up against the corner of the box for a mini massage.
We recommend always keeping at least one designated box around your home. If you want to fully embrace your cat’s box-loving tendencies, save up several boxes to build your own obstacle course, or even create a giant cardboard cat house—with creativity on your side, the options are practically endless.
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