5 reasons why your cat is obsessed with cardboard boxes (according to science)

Cats are weird – that’s part of their charm.

Any cat owner knows the feeling of investing in a nice new toy for their cat only to have them scoff at it in favor of the packaging. And it’s boxes that appeal to them most.

Big boxes, small boxes, boxes of any shape – you know the motto: “If I fits, I sits.”

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But why are our feline friends so enamored of cardboard boxes?!

Animal behavioralists and veterinarians have been trying to find out. But since you can’t really ask a cat, the best we can do is guess and collect evidence to support our theories.

Here are a few reasons boxes appeal to cats so much:

1. They feel safe

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Cats are some of the few animals that feel more secure when they’re closed in. They don’t like to be cornered, obviously, but finding a nice, cozy place where they can feel the walls up against them and only have to worry about potential predators (whether it’s the family dog or a stray housefly they decided to be afraid of) from one direction.

While investigating this phenomenon, Wired cited the research of Claudia Vinke of Utrecht University who studied stress levels in shelter cats. She found that the stress levels of cats that were provided boxes were significantly lower than those without.

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In fact, cats with boxes even acclimated to new surroundings more quickly and were more likely to interact with humans early on.

Clearly, having a safe place to go to whenever you feel like it is important!

2. They’re great for pouting

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Cats don’t apologize. And they don’t really accept apologies either. They tend to just go off and pout when they’re mad and a box is the best place to do it in privacy until they’re ready to tolerate you again.

The more we think about it, the more it makes sense. Having a place to deal with your feelings is a lot like counting to 10 and taking a few deep breaths for humans.

3. They’re warm

This is probably why cats enjoy some of the smaller boxes the most. In fact, you won’t often see a cat curled up in the middle of a large box – it’ll be over in the corner.

Cardboard is insulating and being able to curl up tight inside a little box allows them to conserve the heat they produce.

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4. They’re ambush-friendly

You can’t be an effective predator unless you have a place to hide, dash out of, and dash back into.

Boxes make it easy for cats – whether they’re truly hunting or just playing – to keep themselves concealed for when the next fly, ankle, or mouse goes by.

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5. They’re shreddable

Most cat scratchers are made out of corrugated cardboard. And while a cat in a box isn’t exactly getting to the nice, scratchy part to sharpen its claws, they still might recognize and enjoy the texture.

And cardboard is easy to chew and poke holes in with claws.

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Boxes are so easy to destroy that they make a great outlet for a cat’s energy or frustration.


Of course, all of these reasons are intertwined in some way and suggest that boxes are just cozy, safe places for cats to do what they do best – hunt, sleep, and pout.

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All of these boxes lying around the house after the quarantine online orders arrive must feel like heaven to them!

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Source: Live Science, Wired, Purina