Why Do Cats Love Boxes So Much?

If you have a cat, you know they have a propensity for trying to fit into spaces far too small for them. Many a box has been ruined by a cat with a misguided sense of her size. From shoe boxes to refrigerator boxes, cats zero in on cardboard and make it their own. The question is, why? Is it because they know how adorable it is? Or do they get a thrill from making sure we have to keep climbing over whatever random box they have made their home for the day? Well, science has finally found the answer!

Boxes Reduce Stress

Photo: Flickr/ thelittleone417

According to a study from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, cats use boxes for stress relief. Researchers took 19 cats that were new to shelters and gave 10 boxes, while the other 9 did not. Over a 14 day period, the felines with boxes showed far less stress on the Kessker and Turner Cat-Stress-Score (CSS), and adjusted to the shelter environment far better than their box-less cohorts.

Boxes Are Comforting

Photo: Flickr/normanack

Cats are also awful at resolving conflict. If you have more than one cat, pay attention to where they go after a squabble, or to avoid one. Chances are, they are hitting an enclosed space, most likely a box. Hiding out in them helps them ignore whatever is stressing them out. That’s assuming your other cats don’t try to follow into the same box.

Boxes Keep Cats Warm

Photo: Flickr/I am R.

Outside of stress relief, boxes also provide something every cat needs: extra warmth. Cats prefer to stay between 86 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit, about 20 degrees higher than the average temperature of homes. Since cardboard is such a great insulator, curling up in boxes helps them maintain their comfort temperature. The same goes for cats curling up in a sink, or in a corner of the basement when they are too hot. They don’t do it simply to be cute (probably).

Boxes Are Safe

Photo: Flickr/ Douglas O’Brien

Cats may love boxes simply because they like to hide and be reclusive. Smaller is better when it comes to hiding spots. Cats feel as if they can’t be snuck up on, so they feel safer. As it turns out, shelter cats also do better in cages when there’s a box nearby.

Boxes Are Fun!

In case you need any more evidence about cats and their love of all things boxy, check out this video!


The best part of this study? Now we know how easy it is to help reduce stress in cats, at home and in shelters, making it even more important to bring that comfort to shelters! Talk about an easy solution!

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