Why do cats like boxes?


Cats and boxes – it’s a peculiar combination that has intrigued pet owners and internet users alike. But why are cats so irresistibly drawn to cardboard containers, no matter their size or shape? In this blog, we delve into the feline fascination with boxes, uncovering the psychological, instinctual, and evolutionary reasons behind this common and endearing behavior. As cat lovers, understanding this quirky aspect of our furry companions can provide insights into their world and enhance our relationships with them.

Section 1: The Mystery of Cats and Boxes

The allure of boxes to our feline friends is a phenomenon witnessed by cat owners worldwide. But what exactly is the fascination with these seemingly mundane objects? This section aims to uncover the mystery. Cats’ love for boxes has deep-seated psychological reasons:

  • A sense of security and safety – Simulating the confined spaces of a den or hiding spot in the wild, boxes offer a retreat from the outside world, where cats can observe their surroundings while feeling protected.
  • Environmental enrichment – Cats are known to have keen hunting instincts, and boxes offer an ideal setting for ambush and stalking games. This play is not just entertainment; it allows them to exercise their hunting skills and release pent-up energy.
  • Body temperature regulation – On a fundamental level, the enclosed space of a box can help cats regulate their body temperature. Cats are known for seeking warm spots, and boxes provide insulation and comfort, especially in cooler environments. It’s a cozy, self-made cocoon.

Additional reasons cat love boxes include:

  • Scratching and marking – Cats also use boxes as a surface for scratching, which helps to keep their claws healthy and sharp. They may also rub their scent glands located on their cheeks and paws on the box, marking it with their scent.
  • Curiosity – Cats are naturally curious animals, and a new box can pique their interest. Exploring a box gives them mental stimulation and satisfies their inquisitive nature.
  • Stress reduction – In stressful situations or when they need a break, cats may retreat to a box to relax and unwind. The enclosed space can help reduce their anxiety.
  • Privacy – Cats appreciate privacy when using the litter box, and some might seek out a box to serve as their private bathroom space.

Studies have shown that the physical dimensions of a box play a role too. Cats are known to prefer boxes that are just large enough for them to fit comfortably, giving them that snug feeling. This is consistent with the concept of “Goldilocks boxes,” not too big, not too small, but just right.

The allure of boxes to cats can be attributed to their primal instincts, the need for security and safety, and their natural inclination for hunting and play. Understanding these underlying factors helps us appreciate why cats are drawn to boxes in the first place.

Section 2: Evolutionary Factors

To comprehend why cats find boxes so appealing, it’s essential to consider the evolutionary perspective. How do the behaviors of domestic cats relate to their wild ancestors, and what role might boxes have played in their evolutionary history?

multi-colored cat smelling sofa | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist | thecatbehaviorclinic.com

Cats are descendants of solitary hunters, and their wild relatives often seek out small, hidden spaces for shelter and safety. In the wild, these small hideaways protect them from predators and serve as a strategic vantage point for stalking prey. This survival instinct is deeply ingrained in the feline psyche.

Boxes, with their enclosed spaces and limited access points, offer a modern-day equivalent to the hiding spots and concealed shelters that wild cats would have utilized. The instinct to explore and occupy such spaces is a reflection of their ancestors’ survival strategies.

Also, cats have a strong territorial nature, and boxes may serve as a temporary territory or safe zone within their human households. It provides a space where they can control and defend against perceived threats, whether real or imagined.

The appeal of boxes might also relate to the unpredictability of their environment. Cats are curious creatures, and boxes can introduce novel elements to their surroundings. The novelty and unpredictability can stimulate their mental faculties and satisfy their curiosity.

The irresistible attraction of boxes to cats can be traced back to their evolutionary roots as solitary hunters and the primal need for safety, territory, and mental stimulation. The presence of boxes in a cat’s environment triggers these instinctual responses.

Section 3: The Role of Sensory Stimulatio1n

Beyond psychological and evolutionary factors, sensory stimulation plays a crucial role in the relationship between cats and boxes. This section explores the sensory aspects of this unique bond.

Cats have an acute sense of smell, and cardboard boxes are porous materials that can retain scents. When cats enter a box, they are enveloped by a medley of intriguing smells. This olfactory experience can be comforting and captivating, especially when they are exploring a box brought from the outside world, teeming with unfamiliar scents.

The texture of cardboard is also appealing to cats. It provides an interesting tactile experience, which is particularly relevant as cats have sensitive paw pads. Scratching and kneading the cardboard can be both enjoyable and soothing for them.

Boxes offer an acoustic sanctuary as well. Cats are known to be sensitive to noise, and the confined space of a box can muffle sounds from the environment. This quiet and secure environment provides them with a peaceful retreat.

Sensory stimulation extends to visual engagement too. Boxes often have openings or flaps, inviting cats to peek in and out. The play of light and shadow inside the box can captivate their attention and trigger their instinctual curiosity.

The sensory allure of boxes, including scent, texture, acoustics, and visual stimulation, contributes to the fascination that cats have with these simple containers. These sensory experiences add an extra layer of enrichment to a cat’s environment.


In the world of cats, boxes are more than just cardboard containers. They serve as portals to the primal, evolutionary, and sensory aspects of feline psychology. Understanding the reasons behind their box fascination allows us to appreciate our cats’ quirks and needs better. As we embrace the enigma of cats and boxes, let us continue to provide these simple pleasures to our feline companions, enriching their lives and deepening our bonds with them.

We’ve explored the psychological, evolutionary, and sensory reasons why cats are fascinated with boxes. From a source of security and play to an echo of their wild ancestry, and the sensory delight of cardboard, these humble containers hold a special place in the hearts of our feline friends.

Cats and boxes – it’s a simple pleasure that never ceases to amuse and mystify us. The next time you see your cat curled up inside a cardboard sanctuary, you’ll know that it’s not just a box; it’s a world of wonder and comfort for your pet. Embrace the enchantment of cats and boxes and keep exploring the fascinating world of our feline friends.

It’s essential to remember that every cat is an individual, and while many cats enjoy boxes, some may not show much interest in them. Providing boxes as an option in your cat’s environment can be a simple and cost-effective way to enrich their living space and give them a place to exhibit these natural behaviors.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist