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
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.”
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.”
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Click through to learn about more quirky cat behaviors: