Why do cats love boxes?

Cat Facts posted on February 26 2016 by

Anyone who has spent time with cats knows how they love to find their way inside boxes: cardboard, plastic, wooden, plush—any type of box will do. But why do they love their boxes so? There’s actually a scientific explanation behind the magnetic attraction between cats and boxes, according to the folks at WIRED.

Natural Predatory Instincts

Although cats are domesticated, their behavior is driven by deeply-rooted animal instincts. These instincts are designed for survival and predation. Whether your cat is feeling like it’s up against the ropes or it’s preparing to attack a mouse or rubber ball, the confines of a box may be just what your cat needs.

It doesn’t matter what the enclosed space is, either. You’ll often see your cat burrowing deep inside a bag, a laundry hamper, a drawer, or any other tight space that offers the cover and safety and satisfies its animal instincts.

An Emotional Solution

Beyond the deeply ingrained survival and predatory instincts, your cat also has strong tendencies to avoid stressful or antagonistic situations. Your cat will likely seek out the comfort of a confined area in order to avoid a situation that gives it anxiety.

The confines of a box or similarly enclosed area are beneficial not only in the short term, but also in the long term. For a cat, entering an enclosed space is an adaptive coping mechanism that serves to reduce its stress and give it time to sort out the situation. Less stress and panic make for a happier cat in the long run; your cat knows where to seek refuge, trusts it, and gets the anxiety-reducing results it needs.

In fact, your cat’s ability to see refuge around your house in small spaces (which very well may be a box from your recent delivery), better equips your cat to coexist with you, your kids, your guests, and the dog. Without a reliable haven, your cat may be prone to aggressive behaviors since it sees no other way out of a situation.

Temperature Regulation

There is also a physiological reason your cat prefers enclosures like boxes: cats run a bit cooler than humans and prefer a warmer environment. Your cat’s ideal temperature range, when it will be neither too hot nor too cold, is approximately 66 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. That range is about ten degrees hotter than the typical range in which we humans are comfortable.  So when you’re feeling just right, your cat is likely feeling chilly. Seeking out a snuggly box that will contain its body heat is a good way for your cat to stay more comfortable.

A Box of Her Own

Your cat is great at finding box-like spaces, but why not give your kitty a box of her own? The Kitty Play Zone, from the makers of the Litter-Robot, might be just the thing.

The Kitty Play Zone is a cardboard playhouse for cats that can be built into a castle or a cottage. It has an internal climbing tower, loft area, and a peephole in the roof. It comes with two bowls and doubles as a private feeding station. You can fill it with toys or line it with a blanket. It’s the perfect structure to give your cat a little room of its own and your kids will love constructing and decorating, too!

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Comment

  • Kat Frantz

    Sorry, I disagree on the temperature range listed in this blog. A normal cat temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees. If you “Google” What is a Cat’s Normal Body Temperature?, this is the range you will find. I have been breeding for almost 20 years and have never heard the temp range you posted.

    • Michael Shay

      I believe the 66 to 97 degrees is referring to the ambient room temperature.

      • Kat Frantz

        I can tell you from experience that the 97 degree ambient range is not correct. I live in FL and when my a/c broke and the temp went over 90 degrees in the house, the cats were stressed and overheated. I had to buy a window unit to cool the cats.

        • Geoff Joy

          Temperature and relative humidity are both factors. A 97F ambient in California might be a lot more comfortable to a cat than the same temperature in Florida. However, house cats will self-regulate, seeking warm spaces or snuggling with each other or humans when cold or laying on a tile floor when too warm. Cats can survive in much higher temperatures (120F and higher) than humans can. (See Sand Cats)
          I can tell you from my experience that our cats like 80-97 far more than they like 65 and they’re all over me for body heat when it’s cool.

    • Jaqueline Rose

      They didn’t say it was a cat’s body temperature, they said: “Your cat’s ideal temperature range, when it will be neither too hot nor too cold is approximately 66 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit.”
      as in-temperature range of their surroundings that they find most ideal/comfortable for them.

      or as example- human’s body temperature is 98.6- that does not mean our ideal surrounding temperature range is in the high 90’s.

  • Kat Frantz

    Obviously, we will all disagree so please do not respond to my comments. Like Geoff said, relative to the environment the cats are accustomed to. However, my point was the cat temp. The blog was about the cat’s core temp. The sentence regarding temp did not say room temp. Thanks you.

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