Why do cats love boxes?

Cats and boxes: a seemingly perfect combination for going viral as evidenced by the sheer number of ‘cat in box’ videos or pictures that get shared across the web and social networks on a daily basis. But why can’t cats, no matter how refined, resist the lure of the common cardboard box? Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor and expert in pet behaviour, helps us lift the lid on this popular cat obsession.

A perfect hiding place!

In nature the cat is a formidable predator. Ambushing its prey by assuming a crouched, ‘soldier in the trenches-style’ position, thereby appearing virtually invisible to its target, is a common tactic to achieve the element of surprise. So what could be more perfect than a box, from which to spring or attack with one or more paw, to perfect their hunting skills?

Furthermore, in the wild a cat is also a potential prey because of its small size: so its natural instinct leads it to find a safe refuge in which to hide or relax. In a home setting, boxes can also be useful to avoid clashes or stress caused by forced cohabitation with the other members of the family, be they of the animal or human variety!

Cardboard, what a passion!

Another reason cats love boxes is precisely the material they are made of, cardboard. It is a great surface for the cat to scratch as it’s soft enough to mark with very little effort compared to wood or fabrics, it also retains the cat’s scent-marking pheromones just as well.

Support and warmth

In addition to representing a ‘perfect island retreat’ for your feline, boxes are also an excellent way for them to avoid losing heat, especially if the box is of a similar size to the cat. So in winter, our cat will consider a box a very comfortable, insulated spot within the house to sleep in.

A treasure hunt

If the box is not empty, the cat can explore it to discover new or familiar smells, or unearth hidden ‘riches’, such as balls, pen caps, hair bands or food. For this reason, a simple cardboard box filled with balled up newspaper or other toys can become a perfect mental activation game for our kitty!