tuxedo cat and orange tabby cat in boxes
Facebook Pinterest Twitter

Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Est. read time: 4 min.

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 cats like boxes so much? There’s actually a scientific explanation behind the magnetic attraction between cats and boxes.

tabby cat sitting in box

Natural predatory instincts

Although cats are domesticated, their behavior is driven by deeply-rooted animal instincts. These instincts are designed for survival and predation, as cats are perfect ambush predators. Whether your cat is feeling like they're up against the ropes or they’re 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 their animal instincts.

Refuge and security

Beyond the deeply ingrained survival and predatory instincts, cats like boxes because they have 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 them anxiety.

For instance, a 2019 study by Dutch scientists revealed that “the ability to hide was crucial in lowering the stress levels of cats that had just arrived at an animal shelter.” In fact, when cats in the study were deprived of hiding places, they would go so far as to flip over their litter boxes to take cover underneath them. 

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 their stress and give them 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 and security, and gets the anxiety-reducing results they need.

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 them to coexist with you, your kids, your guests, and the dog. Without a reliable haven, your cat may be prone to aggressive behaviors since they see no other way out of a situation.

Temperature regulation

There is also a physiological reason your cat prefers enclosures like boxes: cats are desert creatures with higher internal body temperatures 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 their body heat is a good way for your cat to stay more comfortable.

A box of their own

Your cat is great at finding box-like spaces, but why not give them a box—or equally comforting confined structure—of their own? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Litter-Robot box

Sphynx cat sitting on Litter-Robot box

As a covered litter box that is automatic and self-cleaning, Litter-Robot inherently offers your cat some comforting measures, such as bathroom privacy and a clean place to go every time. However, your cat may be more intrigued by the huge box that Litter-Robot arrives in. 

Give kitty a better bathroom experience and cardboard playscape while you try Litter-Robot for 90 days in your home! 

Cat tunnels

Russian Blue in cat tunnel

Your cat can put their ambushing skills to the test with a cat tunnel. Whether they’re napping or practicing sneak attacks, you can be sure kitty will enjoy the tunnel’s soft corduroy fabric—just as you’ll enjoy customizing its size and color.


Photo credits:

  • Chris Boyer via Unsplash
  • Mary Rabbit via Unsplash