Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: July 9, 2024
Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes?

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Everyone knows that cats love to play around boxes, often pouncing, batting, and hiding inside them. This attraction isn't just a one time thing, cats repeatedly return to boxes for exploration, relaxation, and play. Their love for cardboard boxes is a curious and multifaceted phenomenon, offering them a sense of security and comfort that can help reduce stress in anxious cats, among other reasons.

In our next AnimalWised article, we'll explore the seven most common reasons why cats love cardboard boxes.

You may also be interested in: Why are Cat Videos So Popular?
  1. Safety and security
  2. Privacy
  3. Hunting instincts
  4. Warmth
  5. Curiosity and play
  6. Stress reduction
  7. Territorial behaviour

Safety and security

Boxes make cats feel safe and secure. In the wild, cats often find small, enclosed spaces to hide from predators and keep themselves safe. Places like dense bushes, caves, or hollow logs help them stay hidden and protected. At home, a box works in a similar way. The enclosed space of a box makes a cat feel hidden and safe from potential threats. This sense of being enclosed helps reduce their anxiety and stress. When a cat is inside a box, it feels shielded from loud noises, unfamiliar visitors, or other pets.

The walls of the box create a barrier that gives cats a sense of control over their environment. They can watch what’s happening around them while feeling safe and unseen. This ability to observe from a secure spot helps them feel more secure.

Boxes also let cats practice their natural hunting instincts. In the wild, they’d use similar hiding spots to stalk and pounce on prey. Even though they don’t need to hunt at home, this instinct is still strong. A box gives them a perfect place to hide and playfully stalk and pounce, which is great for their mental and physical health.

Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes? - Safety and security


Just like people, cats sometimes need a place to retreat to for privacy. A box offers a secluded space where they can be alone and undisturbed. Let us not forget that cats are independent animals and often seek out quiet, solitary spots where they can relax without being bothered by other pets, loud noises, or the general activity in the household.

This need for privacy can be especially important in multi-pet households or busy homes. A box provides a perfect sanctuary where a cat can take a break from social interactions and recharge. Inside the box, they can feel hidden from view and enjoy some peace and quiet.

Moreover, privacy can be crucial during times when a cat feels unwell or stressed. For example, if there are changes in the household, such as new people or animals, or even during events like thunderstorms or fireworks, having a private retreat like a box can help them cope better with these stressful situations.

Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes? - Privacy

Hunting instincts

Boxes give cats a great chance to practice their hunting skills, which are a big part of their natural behavior. Even though house cats don't need to hunt for food, their instincts to stalk and pounce are still very strong. A box is a perfect place for these instincts to come out.

In the wild, cats are ambush predators. They like to hide and wait for the right moment to surprise their prey. When a cat hides in a box, it feels like it’s in a safe spot where it can watch and wait, just like it would in the wild. This hiding and pouncing is not only fun, but also important for keeping their minds and bodies healthy.

Playing in boxes helps cats stay sharp and active. They get to practice their reflexes, work out their muscles, and stay mentally engaged. Jumping out of a box to catch a toy can be a thrilling game that mimics the excitement of hunting.

Learn more about feline hunting instincts in our follow-up article.


Boxes provide cats with a cozy and warm environment that most of them find very comforting. Cats are naturally drawn to warmth and seek out places that help them retain their body heat. A box, with its enclosed space and often insulated walls, creates a microclimate that can be warmer than the surrounding room temperature.

The coziness of a box appeals to cats because it gives them a sense of security and relaxation. The enclosed walls provide a sense of enclosure that makes them feel safe and protected. This feeling of being enveloped in a small space can be reminiscent of being cuddled or nestled, which is soothing for cats.

Furthermore, the warmth that a box retains is especially appealing to cats because they have a higher body temperature than humans. Boxes can trap their body heat, creating a comfortable and snug environment. This warmth helps cats to relax their muscles and promotes feelings of contentment and well-being.

Learn how to take your cat's temperature in our follow-up article.

Curiosity and play

Cats are naturally curious creatures, always eager to explore their surroundings. A box captures their interest because it's something new and intriguing in their environment. Whether it's a cardboard delivery box or a cozy hideout you've set up, cats are drawn to investigate.

As mentioned before, the confined space of a box makes cats feel secure and in control, encouraging them to engage in playful behaviors. They might use it as a hiding spot to peek out from or as a launching pad for playful attacks on toys or passing objects.

Boxes also offer versatile opportunities for play. Cats enjoy jumping in and out of them, batting at toys inside, or even curling up for a nap. This kind of play keeps them mentally stimulated and physically active, which is important for their well-being. The novelty of a box can keep a cat entertained for hours as they explore every corner and crevice.

Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes? - Curiosity and play

Stress reduction

Hiding in a box can be a significant stress-reliever for cats. Research indicates that cats with access to hiding spaces, such as boxes, tend to adapt more smoothly to new environments and display fewer stress-related behaviors compared to those without such spaces.

When a cat feels stressed or anxious, finding a small, enclosed space like a box provides them with a sense of security and comfort. This hiding behavior allows cats to regulate their emotions and lower their stress levels effectively.

Moreover, the act of hiding in a box helps cats to feel in control of their environment. It allows them to monitor what's happening around them while feeling sheltered and unseen. This sense of control is crucial for reducing anxiety in cats, especially in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.

Studies have shown that providing hiding spots, such as boxes, can aid in the overall well-being of cats, particularly during stressful situations like moving to a new home or encountering unfamiliar people or animals. Cats who feel secure in their hiding places are more likely to explore their surroundings at their own pace, gradually adjusting to new experiences without becoming overly anxious or withdrawn.

Boxes might provide a temporary haven, but is your cat truly happy? Learn how to identify signs of stress in our follow-up article.

Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes? - Stress reduction

Territorial behaviour

Cats have a natural inclination to establish and protect their territory, and boxes can play a significant role in this behavior. When a cat adopts a box as its own, it becomes a personal space where they feel safe and in control within their environment.

In the wild, cats mark their territory by scent and by occupying spaces they consider theirs. As mentioned before, boxes can provide a small, enclosed area that cats can defend and mark with their scent. This marking not only tells other animals that this space is taken, but also reinforces the cat's sense of ownership and security.

For indoor cats, especially in homes with multiple pets, having a box allows them to create a private spot away from other animals or people. This ownership of their space can help reduce conflicts and stress, providing cats with a place they can retreat to whenever they need.

Learn how to identify and navigate alpha cat behavior in our follow-up article.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Why Are Cats Obsessed with Boxes?