One of the few things you can rely on with cats is that if there’s a box or small confined space, they’ll occupy it quite happily. It’s a curious behaviour, because as humans we can understand it as we too seek out shelter and look to surround ourselves with walls. Is it simply that cats are satisfying the same need for security that we are or are there other reasons that they need to make any box their home?
Firstly, we need to understand that cats are very instinctual animals. While they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years, they are predatory animals with finely honed instincts which regularly kick in and drive their behaviour.
So, let’s consider what boxes represent. They are small, confined spaces that offer the perception of safety for cats who are hard-wired to be on the lookout for danger everywhere.
Boxes are a safe space
In the wild, cats would use small spaces to avoid predators. Being surrounded by walls on 3 sides, with one opening means your enemy can’t sneak up on you and with a cat’s fantastic sensory perceptions, a small space gives them a great defensive position. It makes a lot of sense that the drive to seek out small spaces comes naturally to them.
Boxes allow a safe spot to stalk a prey
In addition to being a great defensive position, a confined space also makes a great perch to keep an eye out for potential prey. They’re almost entirely hidden from sight and can pounce out at unsuspecting mice or birds! Try tempting a cat out of a box with a string or toy and see just how quickly they can pounce!
They also allow cats to adapt to their environment
Studies have also shown that the familiarity of boxes make it easier for cats to adjust to changes in their environment.
In the wild, a cat might return to the same spot regularly as it becomes associated with safety and comfort. For domesticated cats, they may find the same comfort in cardboard boxes, which for all intents and purposes are very similar to each other.
Hiding in a small space is natural behaviour when a cat is threatened, so it’s perfectly normal for them to retreat into a box if they’re not sure about what’s going on around them. That doesn’t mean that when your cat sits in a box they are anxious (it’s a safe, comfortable place – there are lots of reasons to be there!), but it can help settle them if they are.
Cardboard is a great insulator
Cats like to be cosy, so a small space that’s well insulated must be a very tempting place to curl up and go to sleep. Indeed, for this reason some cats may even prefer a cardboard box to their own bed! A box is no different to cat than a duvet is to a human. Wrapping up in one makes us feel safe and warm and it’s a great place to fall asleep!
Cats are famously very curious creatures
If a mysterious new location suddenly appeared in your territory, of course you would go and explore it and your cat is no different! And when explored, that new territory obviously has to be occupied for some time – at least long enough to ensure any interlopers don’t try to claim it for themselves!
Boxes are a good combination of rigidity and pliability
While cat beds may be soft and outdoors environments may be rugged, cardboard boxes are strong enough to feel secure, but pliable enough to make a good scratching post. Granted, it won’t last as long as a proper cat scratching post, but for a cat it must be a lot of fun to tear in to!
So there you have it. It’s perfectly natural for cats to want to sit in boxes and other small spaces. They’re safe and comfortable, and we all know cats do like to be comfortable! This is also why cat tunnels and houses are a great buy for cats, so be sure to check out our guides.