Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Reading Time: min

Last Updated: October 31st, 2023

written by

A common question among cat owners is “why do cats like boxes?”. In this article, we explain the science behind cat’s obsession with cardboard.

Why do cats like boxes? Grey cat peeking out of a box

If you’re a cat owner, you probably noticed that cats like boxes. This preference for boxes and similar enclosed spaces can be attributed to several factors that are rooted in their biology, evolutionary history, and behavioral psychology. Let’s delve into the scientific explanations behind this phenomenon.

Why Do Cats Like Boxes? The Science Behind This Phenomenon

There are a few reasons behind cat’s obsession with boxes:

Cat’s Instinctual Behavior:

From an evolutionary perspective, cats are both predators and prey. As predators, they seek out concealed spaces to observe and ambush their prey. As prey, they seek shelter to hide from potential predators. Boxes offer an ideal vantage point from which cats can watch their environment without being seen, providing a sense of security and control. A study published in the journal “Applied Animal Behaviour Science” found that shelter cats provided with boxes adapted to their new environment more quickly and exhibited fewer signs of stress compared to those without boxes.

cat peeking out of a box

Stress Reduction:

The enclosed space of a box provides a bounded environment where external stimuli are limited. This can be particularly comforting in stressful situations, as it reduces the need for constant vigilance. A confined space can help lower stress levels, as evidenced by the before mentioned study regarding shelter cats. The reduction in stress not only contributes to a cat’s emotional well-being but also has physiological benefits, as chronic stress can lead to health issues.


Cats have a higher thermoneutral zone than humans, which means they prefer warmer temperatures to feel comfortable. Cardboard boxes provide excellent insulation and help cats retain their body heat. A study from the National Research Council of the National Academies indicates that the thermoneutral zone for domestic cats ranges between 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 36 degrees Celsius), which is higher than room temperature in most human dwellings. Therefore, the confined space of a box can help cats preserve body heat and maintain comfort.

grey cat chilling in a box

Texture and Material:

Cats have sensitive whiskers and enjoy textures that provide tactile feedback. The texture of cardboard can be appealing to cats, as it offers a scratching surface and the opportunity to mark their territory with their scent glands. Furthermore, the malleable nature of cardboard allows cats to modify their environment to some extent, enhancing their sense of control and ownership.

Should I Let My Cat Play With Boxes?

Yes, allowing your cat to play with boxes is generally a good idea, as it can provide numerous benefits, buit there are some precautions that you should take before giving your cat a box.

Benefits of Cats Playing With Boxes

  • Enrichment: Boxes can serve as a source of environmental enrichment, stimulating your cat’s mind and satisfying their curiosity.
  • Exercise: Playing with boxes can encourage physical activity, helping your cat stay fit and healthy. They might jump in and out of boxes, bat at them, or even use them as part of a makeshift obstacle game.
  • Stress Relief: As mentioned earlier, boxes can offer a safe haven for cats, reducing stress and providing a sense of security.
  • Natural Behavior: Engaging with boxes allows cats to exhibit natural behaviors such as hiding, stalking, and exploring, which can lead to a happier and more content pet.
  • Scratching and Clawing: Cardboard boxes provide an excellent texture for scratching, which is a natural and necessary behavior for cats to maintain their claw health.

Safety Considerations:

  • Remove Hazards: Ensure that the box is free of staples, tape, strings, and other small parts that could be ingested or pose a choking hazard.
  • Size: The box should be appropriately sized for your cat. They should be able to comfortably enter, exit, and turn around inside it.
  • Cleanliness: Keep the boxes clean and dry to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.
  • Monitor Playtime: Supervise your cat during playtime, especially if they tend to chew on cardboard, to prevent them from ingesting pieces of it.


The science behind cats’ love for boxes involves instinctual behavior, stress reduction, thermoregulation, and the appealing texture of cardboard. While further research is always beneficial in understanding the complexities of feline behavior, the existing studies highlight the practical and psychological benefits that boxes offer to cats. As cat owners and enthusiasts, providing cats with access to boxes or similar enclosed spaces can contribute to their well-being and overall quality of life.

If you liked this article, make sure to check our article about why are cats scared of cucumbers.



Maja Sebenik is a proud owner of a Dachshund named Bimba. With three years of experience working as a researcher for a pet magazine, Maja's love for animals runs deep. Through her heartfelt writing, Maja shares practical tips, advice, and heartwarming anecdotes to inspire fellow pet lovers. Join her on a journey to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom, one paw at a time.

Related Articles

The information and resources provided by MyPawDiaries.com are for informational purposes only. We do not accept any liability, and strongly suggest you verify all information and resources with a professional.

My Paw Diaries 2023 © All Rights Reserved.

Subscribe to our newsletter!