Already have an account?
Get back to the

Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much? Vets Explain Why Kitties Can’t Resist Cardboard

Plus, adorable pictures of cats cozying up in boxes!

Picture this: You just received a package and as soon as you open it, you cat starts curling up in the box, keeping you from recycling the cardboard. It’s an adorable phenomenon, made all the more charming given what a common behavior it actually is. Most cats can’t get enough of cardboard boxes — and this is just one of many weird but wonderful behaviors we so often see in our feline friends. They even often prefer a plain old box to expensive cat beds and cat trees! If you’ve ever asked yourself “Hey, why do cats like boxes so much, anyway?,” read on! We got the scoop on the ongoing cat/box love affair from a vet.

The 5 main reasons cats love boxes so much

“Cats are instinctively drawn to cardboard boxes,” says Dr. Ray Spragley, a veterinarian at Zen Dog Vet in Tuckahoe, New York. Here are the five reasons they can’t resist a seemingly basic box.

Three Kittens in a cardboard box

1. Your cat wants to keep warm

If you’ve seen your cat go under the covers, you know how much they love a warm and cozy space. A cardboard box may not seem as warm as a bed, but Dr. Paola Cuevas Moreno. a veterinarian, animal behaviorist and consultant for pet care sites like Dogster and Pangolia, calls going into the box an “energy preservation technique.” She explains, “Cardboard has low thermal conductivity properties, making it an amazing heat insulator. Once inside the box, cats won’t lose body heat.”

Related: Why Do Cats Like Shoes So Much? Vets Reveal the Reason for Their Quirky Obsession

A cat in a moving box and surrounded by bubble wrap and packing paper looks up at the camera

Want to make the box even warmer? Add a spare blanket for a quick makeshift bed. Your kitty will thank you!

2. Your cat wants to mark their territory

We all know how territorial cats can be! Once they get their paws on an object it’s theirs, no matter what their human says. “The margins and limits offered by boxes and other enclosed spaces also fascinate cats,” says Dr. Cuevas Moreno. “They are very territorial creatures that need to know, and ideally also have others know, what belongs to them.”

Cat poking head out of box
Mariia Skovpen/Getty

Their scent glands also help them mark their territory, which explains why they love nuzzling against a cardboard box from every angle. Turns out, a cardboard box is the ultimate safe space!

Related: Cat Keep Jumping on Your Counters? Vets Share the Tricks to Get Them to Stop — Really

3. Your cat wants to hunt

“Cats are ambush predators, so they like to hide in confined spaces to sneak up on unsuspecting prey,” says Dr. Spragley. “By knowing they have an advantage on their prey, it lowers their anxiety levels and makes them feel comfortable.”

Ginger kitten playing with a cardboard box
Image by Chris Winsor/Getty

A cat in a box may look cute, but they really think they’re big tough guys when they go in there! For added fun, throw a toy mouse in the box and they’ll have a field day batting it around.

4. Your cat wants to unwind

Ahh, there’s nothing better than a nap in a box at the end of a long day spent being cute! “There’s a study that shows cats were less stressed in a new environment if they had a box to hide in,” Dr. Spragley says. “When clients adopt a cat from the shelter, I recommend they have a cardboard box around to allow the cat to hide to speed up the acclimation process.”

“Confined spaces and boxes also provide the feeling of protection inside a secure environment,” says Dr. Cuevas Moreno. “This is especially important when cats need to rest or take a nap, which they do throughout the day for up to 16 hours!”

Your cat may also like the pressure of a box’s sides, similar to the way humans enjoy the pressure of a hug or a weighted blanket.

chie hidaka/Getty

One thing to watch for is a scaredy cat. These felines may like hiding under the bed or in the closet because something in the house — be it a person or another animal — is making them uncomfortable. Usually, your cat will eventually grow accustomed to this new stimulus (or your guests will go home), and things will return to normal. However, you may need to speak with a vet if your kitty continues to stress out and is overly anxious.

Related: Why Cats Chew on Plastic + Expert Explains How To Stop This Pesky Behavior

5. Your cat is curious

The simplest reason your cat loves a box so much? They’re inquisitive and want to explore. Cats are notoriously curious, and when you’re pawing and meowing your way around the house, a new box can seem like a fascinating object to explore from every angle.

Cat with tilted head in box

Click through to learn about more quirky cat behaviors:

Why Cats Make Biscuits — Vets Reveal the Cute Reasons Behind Their Need to Knead

Why Do Cats Loaf? Vet Experts Reveal the Sweet Reason Behind This Cute Behavior

Why Do Cats Headbutt — Vets Reveal 4 Things They May Be Trying to Tell You

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.