BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Why Do Cats Like Boxes: There is a Reason Schrodinger Chose a Feline Assistant

cat sitting in box
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

As a cat owner, you are probably very familiar with the following scenario. You spent a few hundred bucks on a super fancy cat tower, brought it home, and assembled it carefully. When the masterpiece was done, you proudly called your cat to rejoice on her new throne…only to find her having a blast in the box the cat tower came in. So why do cats like boxes so much?

Most cat parents feel a bit guilty for confining their beloved ball of fluff to a small apartment. We know they are very active, predatory animals that need excitement and exercise, so we try to find elaborate, interesting toys and activities to keep them happy. This is why it feels a bit defeating to realize that an ordinary box can buy all the happiness in the world.

Cats don’t even seem to care about the size or the shape—as the internet has documented. They will do their best to fit into any box, no matter how small, and somehow turn liquid and boneless in the process. There is a good reason behind this innate affinity, and we are here to explain why.

This article will first explain to you how a cat’s mind works (or at least try to) and lay out the reasons for felines’ infatuation with boxes. Then we will give you a few ideas about how to use a box to entertain your furry companion, and lastly, we will give you ideas on how to get creative and make it much more interesting than just a cardboard square sitting in your living room.

Why Do Cats Like to Sit in Boxes?

Aside from the obvious mantra “Cats are weird,” what makes cats feel drawn to small, cramped places such as boxes? There are a couple of very good reasons why do cats like to sit in boxes that have a root in feline hunting habits, as well as their way of life in the wild.

Take a look at the following list which will shed some light on the notoriously eccentric cat logic:

#1: Mimicking Their Hunting Style from the Wild Days

cat hunting

Different members of the feline family have varying hunting techniques, but most small cats are lurkers.

There are three ways a cat catches prey in the wild. The first one is the so-called “fast hunt,” where our fluffy predator uses a cover as an element of surprise, swiftly flushing the prey before it knows what happened.

The second one is the “slow hunt,” where the cat moves slowly and very carefully towards the prey before jumping on it.

The third one is the “sit and wait” approach, when a cat positions herself undercover, in a place where she is very likely to find an unsuspecting victim (like a rodent den), with closed eyes but ears on alert. When she hears the prey approaching, the hunting is done in a couple of swift jumps.

As you can see, a box makes an ideal place for the cat to imitate her natural way of finding food. These days, her food is in the bowl, but it doesn’t mean that a box can’t serve as a perfect cover for feet-hunting. Also, a cat pouncing out of the box is an absolutely delightful sight, isn’t it?

#2: Survival Instinct

Survival instincts are still present in domestic cats. We know your house is completely pet-friendly and cat proof, but cats like to hone their skills even in a perfectly safe environment.

In the wild, cats are keeping themselves safe from predators by sleeping in high places or in small spaces where nothing can surprise them. Your cat probably sees a box as a nice, cozy cave she can use to get her much needed 18-hours-a-day beauty sleep.

Think of it as her own bedroom where she can relax and not worry about the business of the rest of the household.

See Also: How to Get Your Cat to Sleep with You

#3: Personal Space

gray cat in box

Your cat might not respect your personal space, but she definitely likes her own. If you have a cat box as a part of the permanent cat furniture set up, you already know that your furry friend usually sits there when she wants to be left alone. This is her personal safe place, and she lounges in it when she would like to take some time off.

Some scientists suggest this explanation: cats, in their nature, are not pack animals. This is why they don’t have good conflict resolution mechanisms; they tend to avoid disagreements in the only way they know—by isolating themselves.

Cats have a famous mantra saying: “If I ignore it, it will go away.” This can work very well for acute feuds with their feline family, but if a cat spends most of the time hiding, it might be a cause for concern.

Keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior, but if her box is just an occasional refuge, don’t be alarmed. She might feel stressed, overwhelmed, or just tired, so respect her need for a break and give her the alone time she needs.

See Also: How Much Space Does a Cat Need

#4: The Hidden Observer

This habit is also related to hunting but doesn’t necessarily have to be used only for that.

Cats are inherently curious creatures with a great need to be aware of everything that is happening around them. If you add a well known feline tendency towards coziness, what better way is there to make notes of the outside world than from the safety of a snuggly box?

#5: Cats Like Warmth

cats sleeping in boxes

Every cat owner knows that sunspots spontaneously generate cats. They like to be in warm places, and a small box is perfect for keeping the temperature just right. These warm refuges are just what a cat needs for an optimal afternoon nap.

#6: A Box is Also a Cool Toy

Some cats think of boxes as their personal caves, but others treat it more like a toy. It makes cool sounds and is fun to bite and scratch. Some cats make it their weekly goal to shred the box to pieces, and they have the time of their lives doing it!

If you have two or more cats, it gets even more interesting—they can ambush each other from the box, “imprison” the one inside, or use it as a hide and seek prop… Just watch and see for yourself—their creativity seems inexhaustible when it comes to playing in, out, and around a box.

#7: A Box is a Cozy Bed

cat sleeping in box

You spent a lot of money on that memory foam, anatomical cat bed, and then your cat decides to sleep in the box. Oh, the disappointment. Have you thought about just leaving the fancy bed inside the box it came in?

Well, even if the aforementioned scenario is not relevant to you, we are sure you have seen your cat sleeping soundly in a box half her size. This behavior is closely connected to other factors that have already been explained above. The box is cozy, warm, and provides a good shelter from the outside world.

#8: A Box as a Stress Reliever

Humans have hot baths, cats have boxes; that’s just how it is. In fact, a study has been conducted recently in the Netherlands, where 19 cats that had just arrived at the animal shelter underwent a little experiment.

Ten cats were given boxes, and the other nine were not. The results were very clear; cats with boxes had a much easier time coping with the new, stressful environment and adapted much quicker.

The bottom line is, you can use a box to reduce stress levels whenever there is a sudden change or an unavoidable stress factor in your cat’s life. Occasions such as moving, introducing a new pet or a baby, recuperating after a long trip (or just a trip to the vet) can have much less of an impact on your cat if she was presented with a box to chill out in.

How to Use and Where to Put a Box in Your Home

boxes for a cat

Surely, we have given you plenty of reasons to introduce a box as a part of your interior design. But tripping over it and cleaning up shredded cardboard is not that convenient.

Finding the perfect place is not at all a hard task; you just have to think like a cat. Here are some tips and trick that can help you find a most suitable and practical place.

#1: Beside the Cat’s Bed

If you are one of the rare wizards who succeeded in convincing a cat to sleep in her own bed, it is a good idea to place the box next to it. This way, your cat can have her own little “bedroom” with all that she needs to feel relaxed and comfortable.

#2: Under an Armchair

A good place for a bigger box can be underneath your favorite armchair. You could make a hole in one of the sides, but don’t make it too big—just enough so the cat can easily crawl inside.

This way the box is not that visible and doesn’t clash with your furniture setup, but your cat can still be close to you while enjoying the luxury of her own enclosure.

#3: The Balcony

orange persian cat in small box

Cats like to sunbathe, and there is no better place for it than a nice, open balcony. It is the kitty equivalent of a beach.

Now, when she’s had enough of that delicious vitamin D, she can just move out of her favorite box and get some shade. You could also place a bowl of water for her in front of the box, and you have the perfect arrangement.

#4: A Shelf Box

If you have an empty shelf or if there is one that your cat likes to use for chilling out, you could introduce an improvement.

Cats love to relax in the elevated spaces because it gives them a feeling of safety combined with an opportunity to easily overlook their kingdom. In this case, a cardboard box is not the best fit because it can easily flip over and fall, possibly with your cat in it.

You could make a simple box out of plywood and fix it to the shelf or the wall. Throw a nice pillow inside and there you go—you have just combined your feline’s two favorite chill out places.

See Also: DIY Cat Shelves

#5: In Her Favorite Playing Area

Why not just improve the space your cat already uses for play time? Place a box in a place where you usually spend time exercising your cat, and you have just made an immense upgrade!

DIY Projects that are Fun for Both You and Your Cat

A cat box doesn’t necessarily need to be a classic cardboard box. You can actually make a piece of furniture that has the same function, but with a spin.

Take a look at some of the ideas we have prepared. Of course, if you are not the handy type or just don’t have the time to make it yourself, there are plenty of good options online and in the pet stores.

#1: A Cat Box Ottoman

A сat box ottoman

You can repurpose an old ottoman into a cat box. All you need is a drill, a jigsaw, and some sandpaper. Draw a circle with the diameter big enough to make a hole through which the cat can jump in and out. Use the drill to make a starting point for sawing, and then carefully cut out the hole with the jigsaw. When you’re done, sand the rough edges, and that’s it!

If the ottoman has an opening lid, you can also put a cushion inside and maybe hang some toys for your cat to play with. This is an ideal observation spot for your cat. It’s also a great way to save space in already cramped apartments.

#2: A Cat Bench

This project is really simple. You can just close off the bottom part of the bench using two pieces of plywood. Make sure to make a hole in one of them as we described in the previous tip.

This setup is easy to move around and doesn’t involve a lot of skill. You would need the same tools as before, with the addition of a couple of screws to make the installation sturdier.

Alternatively, you can make a cat hammock by nailing in a piece of firm cloth to both bench bases. Cats absolutely love this!

#3: A Cat Nightstand

The bottom compartment of your bedroom nightstand can also be repurposed as a cat box. You can make the entrance in the door itself or on the side of the nightstand, whichever you prefer.

#4: A Cat Cabinet

cat box cabinet

The cool thing about this project is that you don’t have to surrender the whole piece of furniture to your cat.

You could repurpose just a small part of the already existing cabinet for this by making a plywood barrier on the side that your cat is going to use, and the rest of the cabinet can still be used for your own stuff. A small hole on the side or even in the back, just like before, and you are done.

#5: A Cat Shelf Installation

These are really amazing if you can dedicate a piece of a wall to a whole new kitty playground. The idea is to make multiple rectangle boxes that can be hung on the wall, and connect them with pieces of cloth, tunnels, or cat ladders.

A cat can sit on top of them, hide inside, or just run around as if it was a fun park. These installations are a lifesaver for small apartments where cats don’t have a lot of space to run. It only takes up a small amount of vertical space, and if you are creative, you can make it look like an awesome addition to the interior design.

#6: A Cat Hobbit House

cat box house

For those who are handy with clay, this can be an amazing project. The shape, color, and size can be adjusted to your liking. You can make it so that it fits in the corner, under a desk, or in that unusable space in the kitchen that’s been annoying you for a while now.

If you are not handy with clay, you can use plaster. With some paint and a bit of imagination, you can create a masterpiece for your cat to enjoy and have something to brag about when friends come to visit.

Wrap Up

cat in box

Cats and boxes go together like peanut butter and jelly. We hope that this article helped you understand how to use it for your cat’s well being. Cats are modest and imaginative creatures which means that there is often no need to invest a lot of money in their entertainment. All you need is a nice box, and the cat will figure out the rest.

As you could see while reading this article, having a box around is truly beneficial for your pet’s mental health. If you have some tools and free time, you could have a lot of fun making a new installment for your furry friend. Who knows; maybe you will even discover a new hobby!

What kind of box does your cat like to hole themselves up in? Do you think you’ll take up one of our DIY projects or do you have great ideas of your own? Do share your thoughts with us below! For more interesting information on cats that we usually take for granted, check out our article why do cats like fish.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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