Why Do Cats Like Sitting in Boxes?

There’s an ancient proverb in the cat world: if I fits, I sits. 

Monday is officially International Box Day, and while the internet seems pretty undecided about the origins of the day (some say it was started by a box company, others that it was the idea of cat lovers) we can all agree on the fact that cats absolutely love sitting in a cardboard box - and we think that’s something to celebrate. 

In the name of serious scientific research, and to celebrate International Box Day, we’re investigating why our cats seem to love sitting in boxes so much - and how they manage to squeeze themselves in!


Cats and cardboard boxes

Leave an empty cardboard box hanging around in your house, and, depending on your pets, you’ll probably see two very different types of behaviour. Dog owners will tell you that their dog is more likely to destroy a cardboard box to get their kicks, while cat parents will be much more familiar with the ‘fits and sits’ approach (although that’s not to say they won’t destroy the box afterwards!). 

So why do our cats like sitting themselves in boxes, and why does it seem like the smaller the box, the better?


a cat's face looks out from a cardboard box


Cats love a good hiding place

Hiding is in a cat’s nature, and they will instinctively seek out small enclosed spaces because they can make them feel safe. Although they might not look very hidden to us with their paws squished into a tiny cardboard box, they’re simply demonstrating the natural cat tendency to want to hide in a safe spot. This preference for a safe enclosed space is also why many cats prefer a covered in litter box (like our Recyclable Litter Box) rather than a more exposed, open tray.


a cat sits in a small shallow cardboard box and looks back at the camera


Cats are natural hunters

This behaviour is also tied to cats’ natural instincts as hunters: hiding away in a box helps them to hide from their potential prey while they hunt them, and it also protects them from any predators themselves. We might not find their disguise particularly convincing, but, for them, sitting inside a box allows them to survey the area whilst hiding themselves away - to see without being seen (or at least that’s what they think!).


a tabby cat is curled up in a cardboard box with its cheek squished over the edge and its whiskers sticking out


Cats love being cosy 

And there’s another reason too: cardboard boxes and enclosed spaces are nice and cosy! They help our cats to keep warm, thanks to both the extra cardboard insulation and also the small space to curl up in. Boxes offer the perfect spot for a nice warm snooze, with the added benefit of helping our cats to feel safe.


a young grey kitten looks out from a cardboard box


Cats and small spaces

Cats are surprisingly good at squeezing themselves into very small spaces - even the smallest of boxes can seem like a comfy spot for them to hang out in. And now that we understand our cats’ reasons for liking boxes, it makes sense! If you want to feel safe and cosy, a nice small box is better than a huge one. 

You might have noticed that your cat seems able to squeeze through gaps that seem much (much!) smaller than them. This is because of their anatomy, with flexible shoulders and collarbones. Rather than being rigid and fixed like ours, a cat’s shoulders and collarbone are “floating” - attached to the muscle, so they can move more freely. This means that, if a cat can fit their head through an opening, chances are they can just glide right on in!

16/06/2023 by NatuTeam

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