If you ever put any kind of box in front of your cat, you already know this:
Cats LOVE boxes
As soon as you put a new box around your cat, you’ll see him/her get very interested. He might get inside it and take a nap, jump on top of it, or play with it and tear it to pieces.
Many cat owners often get disappointed when they buy a new cat tree, and then find that their cat is more interested in the packaging box than the tree.
This video does a great job at showing some of the ways in which cats have fun and find some relaxation thanks to boxes.
But what is the reason behind this odd behavior?
To answer this question, it’s necessary to study cats in the wild, and the behaviors that allowed them to survive over time.
From an evolutionary perspective, there are two main reasons why cats love boxes so much.
Boxes are safe hiding spaces
In the wild, cats are far from being the strongest animal. They are more often a prey than a predator.
For this reason, they developed an instinct to hide in places where they can feel safe and avoid threats. This means that the ideal hiding place for cats tends to be enclosed and small so that predators cannot easily get in.
This is why even if domestic cats are never in danger of being preyed upon, they still have the tendency to find relaxation in small, enclosed spaces. As such, boxes help cats feel safer, relax and reduce stress. This explains why you’ll often find your cat taking a nap inside a box, even when they could sleep in a more comfortable bed.
Photo by Vika Aleksandrova on Unsplash
So if you think your cat is stressed and wants to help him/her relax, the simple act of giving him/her a box can be really helpful. This was confirmed by a recent study conducted in the Netherlands, which showed that the simple act of providing boxes to shelter cats can have a significant impact on reducing their stress levels.
Cats evolved as ambush hunters
Yes, cats love enclosed, safe spaces, but not only for their own safety. Cats also need to look out at the world for prey. Indeed, you’ll often see cats suddenly jumping out of boxes towards an object, as if they were preying on it.
Again, even if your domestic cat has no need for hunting (because you provide great food), he/she still has a hunter instinct. Getting inside a box and looking for a prey to catch satisfies this natural instinct they have.
If you have an interactive mouse or another cat toy that you can control, and you put it near a cardboard box, you’ll see your cat immediately jumping inside the box and get ready to ambush his prey (toy).
Are Cardboard Boxes Safe to Let Cats Play?
New cat owners sometimes are (rightly so) very careful about what objects they introduce in the house. They want to ensure that cats are as safe as possible, especially when the owner is out. So I often get asked if cardboard boxes are safe to leave our cats to play with.
As we mentioned, cats love boxes because they are a safe hiding place. And they are right.
Boxes, indeed are a lot safer than many other cat products that are sold on the market, some of which contain choking hazards or other potential dangers (e.g. ingested litter).
As a cat owner, I’m quite confident letting my grown-up cats play with boxes on their own.
With kittens instead, I prefer to be more careful. If I give them a cardboard box to play with, I like to always watch them. Kittens tend to chew on things a lot more during their teething period. While it is fine for them to gnaw on it, I prefer to monitor them to make sure that they are not eating it. If instead, you want to give your kitten something to safely chew on when you’re not home, there are a variety of great kitten teething toys available in the market that you can pick from.
Using Cardboard Boxes to Make a Cat Slow Feeder
Another great and cheap way to use cardboard boxes is to make a slow-feeder. As you may know, cat slow-feeders are some special feeders that encourage your cat to eat more slowly and play while doing so.
But if you enjoy doing things yourself, you can simply cut some holes in a closed box and put some dry food and leaves inside it. You’ll have a lot of fun watching your cat try to catch the food with his paws while playing with the box. In the meantime, you’ll prevent your cat from eating too quickly.
If we understand how cats evolved in the wild, it’s very easy to see why they feel so attracted to cardboard boxes.
I have no problems letting my cats play with them. Cardboard boxes are a great and cheap way to let your cat have fun and have a safe hiding place at home to relax. We hope this article was helpful!