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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