Q&A: Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Every cat owner knows this to be true:  Cats and empty boxes go together like peanut butter and chocolate.  Like wine and cheese.  Like french fries and ice cream… oh, is that just me?

 

My cat Goose will literally find his way into a new empty box faster than you can say "Goose-in-a-box"!

My cat Goose will literally find his way into a new empty box faster than you can say “Goose-in-a-box”!

 

But why?  It’s a question that researchers were only recently able to answer.  Getting an answer took so long because, well frankly, cats are terrible at filling out surveys.

There are three prevailing theories that have emerged:

 

Goose in a box (2)

1.  The Predatory Instinct

Cats are predatory by nature, and they prefer to hunt from places of hiding.  This could explain why your cat pounces unexpectedly onto your feet when you walk by an empty box.

2.  Warmth

Anyone who has observed a cat knows that they really like to be warm.  Their normal body temperature ranges around 100-102 degrees F, but the typical home temperature sits around 72 degrees F.  A box (or other small space) may provide insulation and warmth for our dear kitties.

 

Really?  The trash can?

Really? The trash can?

 

3.  Self-soothing and stress reduction

And finally, in a study among shelter cats, it was discovered that chilling in a box greatly reduced stressful behaviors and potentially harmful hormone levels.  Having empty boxes around helped the cats adjust more quickly to a new environment.  Cats apparently derive comfort and security from small enclosed spaces.

 

I swear, I have a thousand more pictures like this.

I swear, I have a thousand more pictures like this.

 

So how does this new knowledge benefit you and your cats?  Here are a couple ideas I have that will help you put this information to good use:

  • Provide plenty of empty boxes and/or hiding places if you are bringing home a new cat, or changing your cat’s environment.  This could help with stress reduction and a faster adjustment to their new space (or new house-mates).
  • Use that empty Amazon box as environmental enrichment.  Cats get bored in the same-old-same-old.  A new hiding place will stimulate and encourage their mental and physical health.
  • In the winter (or any time of year, really), try putting a comfy hidey hole right where the sun beam hits your floor.  Not only will they bask in the glow of warmth but they’ll be secure and hidden, completely able to relax during their mid-morning nap.

 

Do you have any theories to add?  I’d love to hear ’em!