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Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

 

Why do cats like boxes main photo

Almost all cats like boxes. Here are five reasons why.


If you know anything about cats, you know that cats love boxes. Domestic cats, big cats like lions, tigers, and leopards, it doesn’t matter give them a cardboard box, and they’ll want to be in it.

But why do cats like boxes? If you buy your feline overlord a beautiful kitty bed worthy of a royalty, why do they prefer the box it arrived in?

There are many reasons, and the main one is that your feline friend is a magnificent ambush predator by nature, so a safe, confined hiding place is going to be extremely useful both to stalk the prey from (your foot is acceptable prey) and to retreat to.

Purrfectly reasonable, isn’t it? Let’s explore this wondrous topic, so you can better understand how to please your feline master, or in other words, make your cat happy.

 

Boxes Are the Safest Place in the World

Three cute cats in a box

Boxes are like a den, no other predator can sneak up on the poor kitty either from behind or from the side. Whatever chooses to approach, the feline majesty will see it coming, and respond accordingly. Hiss, scratch, jump on the unsuspecting prey (your fingers are prey), everything can be done from a box. That's why Cat Box Classics Cardboard Cat Houses have strategically place holes that allow your furry friend to keep an eye on you and pounce when the moment is right. You can can check them out here.

Also, as noted by the Pet Health Network, hanging out in boxes may really reduce stress in cats. A study on shelter cats shows that cats that can hide in boxes have reduced stressful behaviors and lower harmful hormone levels. Seriously, try to hide in a box, and you’ll discover how comforting that is, like a blanket fort.

 

Quote about cats feeling stressed when left alone

Cats can also feel some stress when they are left home alone. So having their own special place helps provide some comfort until their human companion returns. Being in a warm familiar place can be very comforting to humans and the same is true of cats. Some even speculate that the closeness cats feel inside of a box reminds them of the comfort they felt when they were small kittens surrounded by their mother.

Boxes are also proportional. Cats are obviously a fraction the size of people. The average cat is about 10 inches in height, whereas the average person is between 63.7 and 69.1 inches tall. So you could see where a large room or apartment could feel a little overwhelming to our little furry friends. So a box is just the right size relative to a cat to make them feel safe and comfortable.

 

Boxes Are Great for Avoiding Conflict


Two cats avoiding conflict
According to a national pet owners survey, approximately 96 million cats lived in homes across the United States in 2017. And this doesn't take into account the recent dramatic rise in pet and cat ownership. And many of those households include more than one cat. And as we all know, occasional conflict between feline housemates is not unheard of.

In fact, tensions can arise between familiar cats even after many years of living peacefully together. Conflicts can be set off not only by issues between two cats, but by upsetting life events, such as a stressful car trip or even a loud noise at the wrong time.

Quote that conflicts can occur among familiar cats after yeats
Conflicts can be obvious, such as hissing, biting and attacking. But they can also be hard to spot and be the cause of ongoing anxiety in our beloved feline friends. And, according to Psychology Today magazine, conflicts between familiar housemate cats is one of the more common causes for cats to be relinquished. So we want to do everything we can to avoid conflicts in multi-cat households.

Cats are also generally not considered skilled at conflict resolution. Other common domesticated animals, such as dogs and horses, have signals they can send in conflicts that are meant to help resolve differences. But the advice "use your words" doesn't work so well on cats who are largely left with either fighting or fleeing.

 


Providing a space for a cat to go to feel safe can go along way in resolving conflict. So when things get a little heated - for example when our adult cat Cleo has just had enough of our pesty upstart kitten Jupiter or when Cleo is kicked out of her favorite chair - separation is often the best solution. Boxes give cats their own comfort zone and a place to go hide and calm down or sulk, as the case may be. Or take a long nap (as long as necessary) while they wait for the problem to go away.

 

Boxes Are Warmth Incarnate

Orange and white cat warm under a blanket

When your were cat curls up in your lap, they are, of course, doing so because they love you. But they are also doing it because cats crave warmth. Most domestic house cats of today are descended from ancient desert animals and are genetically wired to succeed in warm climates.

According to nature.com, a DNA study reveals domestic cats are most similar to wildcats living today in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. As a result, their short hair and long bodies are designed to expel heat.

Over many generations of domestication, some breeds have developed long coats and some breeds such as Maine Coons have thick fur to keep them warmer than other types of cats. However, the majority of our house cats seek outside sources to stay warm.

Cats also like to sleep in warm places because it means their bodies don’t have to work as hard to retain heat when they fall asleep. Sleeping results in a slight drop in a cat's body temperature and napping in a warm spot helps off that that loss.

A cat's thermoneutral zone, according to Wired Magazine, is 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit while yours is about 20 degrees lower. So while you feel cozy with the thermostat at 72, your cat likely doesn't. Boxes provide a place for cats to curl up, which helps keep them warm, and the enclosed space helps reflect their own body.

A box is also a good option because cats have fewer heat receptors than humans, which means they will not as readily feel pain as an external heat source increases as with humans. Therefore, cats are prone to being burned more easily by external heat sources, such as an unattended electric heater. The box lets them reflect their own body heat back on them to keep them cozier and warmer than the general temperature of the room. 

A box certainly doesn't compare to your lap, but it's just about the next best thing.

Boxes Are Super-Fun!
Tabby cat playing

Play is important to the health and well-being of both kittens and adult cats. Play helps keep their minds sharp and bodies toned.


For kittens, play helps facilitate their coordination and physical development. It also allows them to learn and hone social skills for interacting with other cats.


For adult cats, play helps maintain a healthy body weight and serves to keep their bodies in muscles in shape. According to study published by Pet Innovations, approximately 59% of America’s cats are overweight or obese. The study was conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and it found that 31% of those cats are clinically obese. So it is good to try to keep indoor cats moving and jumping.


Cats are also natural predators and play allows them to practice and mimic hunting instincts, such as stalking and pouncing. This also serves to keep their minds alert. Cats like a challenge and can become bored without mental stimulation. That boredom can sometimes lead to depression. So plenty of play hunting is a good thing.


Play time is also a huge stress relief for cats. Prolong stress in cats can lead to behavioral issues, such as aggression and spraying as well as just an unhappy kitty. So we want to give them as much play as we can.


Play is also an excellent way for people to bond with their cats because play helps integrate you into your cat’s world. In a study highlighted by CNN, it was found that cats that did not have a secure bond with their owner displayed signs of stress, such as twitching their tails and licking their lips, in certain situation. But cats that were well bonded with their owners saw the owner as a source of security and helped the cats feel more secure in stressful situations.

It's hard for humans to grasp just how fun the right box can be for a cat, particularly a Cat Box Classics box. The possibilities are endless! Cats can hide in their box and stalk passersby. If the box has open spaces, your cat can pounce when the time is right! If the box includes a scratching pad, cats can scratch, stretch and flex their paws. And few things are as fun or enticing to cats as a play wand or toy slowly dangled just outside the box! (You have to be quick for that last one!) 

To make things even better, the scent pads on your cute cat's little paws will make the box smell like them, and mark them as their personal territory.

 

Your Cat Can Sleep in Peace!

Gray tabby cat sleeping

Your furry friend may have nothing more to worry about than if breakfast will be served on time and how often you clean out their litter box. But cats are instinctual creatures driven by long evolved survival behaviors. And they don't want anything sneaking up on them while they sleep.

While cats themselves are predators they have also been prey. Before settling into a life of cat treats and lap-supported naps, cats had to worry about birds of prey and larger land predators. Sleeping in small, hidden places gives them a sense of security and protection.

Cats don’t only want to be hidden away while napping. They also want to be able to keep an eye on their surroundings and to react if necessary. Much of cat’s sleep is what is called slow wave sleep (sws), in which they remain partially aware of their surroundings even while napping. A box, particularly with strategically placed openings, offers cats that dual sense of being hidden away while also being able to observe their environment and react quickly if necessary.

Also, according to Cat Time, if your cat spends a lot of time hiding in places that are unsafe or were you don’t want them to be, it might be because your cat doesn’t feel secure. So, according to some cat experts, providing your cats a better, safer alternative in which they feel hidden, that offers warmth and from which they can keep an eye on their surroundings, is one way to encourage them to spend their time and naps in more appropriate locations. And providing multiple healthy alternatives is considered a better way to address and issue than punishment.

Boxes provide that perfect space. They are dark, reflect a cat’s body heat, are partially enclosed and provide good sight lines. So while it's unlikely your cat will have to fend off their stuffed fish toy while lost in slumber, they can nap peacefully knowing they are ready if they have to.

So whether its warmth, safety or play, cats love boxes because boxes make them feel safe, happy and engaged.

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