Why Do Cats Sit in Boxes?

Why Do Cats Sit in Boxes?

It never fails — you get your cat a new bed or tower to play on only to have your cat sit in, or play with, the box it came in. You could have saved that money and brought home a box for your cat instead. What is it about boxes that cats can’t resist?

Cats sit in boxes because as natural predators, they use confined spaces to hide in when they are pursuing their prey. They also hide in boxes when life changes quickly, as it helps them feel safe and secure during the chaos. Cats use boxes to kick, scratch, and bite without fear of consequences.

While it may seem silly to you that cats squeeze themselves into tiny boxes, they have very good reasons for doing so. Read on to discover these reasons.

Cats Are Predators Who Like Confined Spaces

The hallmark of a predator is being able to hide in a confined space while stalking their prey. These confined spaces help cats feel like they won’t be seen, and when their prey comes along, they can jump out and “kill” it. Boxes also mean that cats can retreat when they feel threatened or when there is conflict.

Cats don’t handle conflict well and would rather retreat to a confined space because it provides safety on all sides. With it being confined, there is no extra space for other animals to climb in there with the cat.

A confined space is also quite warm. Since cats need a warmer environment to stay warm without needing extra energy, a confined space helps their body heat stay in one place where it benefits the cat the most.

Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Boxes represent safety to cats because they are hidden on all sides. When their humans’ lives change, and there are several new things to process and digest, cats can become anxious and upset quickly. Cardboard boxes represent safety and security in an otherwise chaotic world.

Cats can adapt to changes quickly when boxes are a part of their world. Cats without boxes have difficulty adapting to changes and can get stressed and anxious more easily.

When cats are in a new environment, boxes help them adapt more quickly because they have a space to retreat when they feel stressed. Boxes are a quick way to provide a safe space for your cat to hide or play in, especially if your home is not very calm.

Cats With Boxes Are Less Stressed Than Cats Without Boxes

In the wild, large cats (and feral cats, for that matter) seek out enclosed and confined spaces because it keeps them from being seen or snuck up upon. When a cat is constantly worried about a predator sneaking upon them, they are naturally more stressed. Likewise, when stressful things happen at home, cats need to feel like they can go somewhere to hide.

Boxes provide more than a hiding space for cats. They also provide safety and security–much like a retreat away from the “hustle and bustle” of human life. For humans, getting away from it all can reduce stress and create a sense of well-being.

It’s the same thing for cats, but with boxes. Boxes create a retreat of sorts that cats can go to when they feel stressed. When cats don’t have boxes, or a place to hide, such as in a closet, they are more stressed.

Cats Need Shelter From Imagined Threats

It is an instinct for almost all species to imagine threats in life. Because cats don’t have very good conflict resolution skills, they need to know they have a place to hide from these imaginary threats. Boxes provide shelter on all sides, much like the way a hollowed-out log or a small cave does.

When a cat feels threatened, they will find hidden areas to hide in, including boxes. If a predator can’t see them, they will be safe. Another place they hide from predators is under beds, desks, or behind other furniture.

If you place a folding footstool used for camping under a desk, your cat will gravitate to it like a box because it is dark and safe. While this might be a poor substitute for a box, it can provide just as much shelter.

Boxes Provide a Safe Space to Kick, Scratch, and Bite

Cats need to kick, scratch, and bite, as it is part of their nature. But often, when they do it on your furniture, they get in trouble for it. Cardboard boxes are not only a good place to hide, but they are safe to kick, scratch, and bite without fear of getting in trouble with their humans. Cats will rub their faces and heads on the boxes, presumably to leave their scent on it, as if they are laying claim to the box.Why Do Cats Sit in Boxes?

They love the way their claws sink into the cardboard. They also like to rip up the cardboard and shred it as if they are ripping their prey into shreds. Also, because cats have scent pads on their paws, they are most likely making the box their special hiding space. If there are other cats in the household, those cats will leave the one box alone because of one cat’s scent.

Providing boxes for your cat(s) might keep them off your curtains and furniture while giving them a place to sharpen their claws and pretend to kill their prey.

They Are Following Their Natural Instincts

Cats are natural predators, as mentioned earlier, and need boxes to help them follow their instincts. If you put a small furry toy in the box, your cat might have fun with jumping in and pouncing on it, pulling it back out, and tossing it back in again.

Cats tend to play with their prey before killing it. A box and a small toy will provide your cat with the necessary items to help them practice their hunting skills and give them plenty of opportunities for “hunting.”

Create a Box World for Your Cat

Now that you’ve seen how boxes can create stability and safety for cats, you might want to create a box world for your cat. A box world is as it sounds—an exploration-based world made of boxes that your cat can explore, retreat to, and hide in on a whim. Even if you don’t have any building or crafting skills, you can make something like this for your favorite feline.

You will need a few boxes, some duct tape, and a pair of scissors or a box cutting knife. Then follow these simple steps:

  1. Cut a circle in at least two of the boxes that fit your cat’s size.
  2. Tape the boxes together with the holes facing each other. Be sure to tape them securely to each other before continuing.
  3. Place these on the floor or other secure surface.
  4. To entice your cat to use the boxes, place some fun cat toys inside or a blanket to keep them warm.


Cats of any size or breed find boxes irresistible and love playing in them. Zookeepers put large boxes in the cages of lions and tigers to see how they react. They jump in and out of the box like domesticated cats do. They also get in and sleep in the boxes.

Boxes are highly prized in the cat world. One cat will get in the box; then another will sneak up and smack the cat in the box, of which the other one will fight back. When the first one leaves the box, the second one jumps in.

The only solution is to provide several boxes for your cats.