Why Cats Like Boxes So Much (And What to Do About It)

Written by Shaunice Lewis
Updated: October 14, 2022
© Konstantin Aksenov/Shutterstock.com
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There are quite a few different reasons why cats can display this curious behavior. We’ll start by saying that it’s perfectly normal for your cat to enjoy hiding and playing in boxes, and if you notice your cat doing it, you shouldn’t be worried in most cases. Read on to learn more about why cats like boxes so much and what you can do about it.

It’s a Cat’s Natural Instinct

It is in a cat’s natural instinct to find places to hide. One of the most common reasons why cats like to hide in boxes is because it makes them feel comfy and secure.

There is also the fact that boxes provide a dark, secluded area for them to “stake out their prey”. Boxes offer your cat a secure location to do this. If you have more than one cat or multiple pets, you may notice that one of the cats will sit inside of the box and wait for the other one to pass before leaping out to “attack.” This is a cat’s natural hunting instincts in action.

It Provides a Feeling of Safety

Cats need a place where they can feel safe. Some reasons why a cat may not feel safe in its environment include:

If You’ve Just Moved Into a New Home

Cats need time to adjust and familiarize themselves with their new settings. If they are uncomfortable and haven’t settled into the new place just yet, you may notice that they are choosing one particular spot (which could be inside one of your empty moving boxes) and hiding in it. It’s normal for cats to hide for the first few days after moving into a new location. After some time, they should feel more comfortable in the new place and will be out and about exploring their new home.

If You’ve Introduced a New Pet

Some animals are shy about socializing. If you’ve brought home a new animal member of the family, your cat may feel like it needs a place to hide until it gets used to the new addition. If you happen to have any empty boxes around, these make the perfect place to do so.

Boxes Are Fun to Play In

Aside from providing shelter, boxes are simply fun to play in for cats. They make a fun place to pop in and out of and surprise their “prey”. You may find that your cat will even go to play in the box that a new toy came in rather than with the toy itself. This is strange behavior that many cats share.

Cats need a lot of play-time and some of them can be very high-energy. It’s important that you give your cat plenty of things to do to stay active and preoccupied. When cats get enough exercise they tend to live healthier lives. Playing in boxes can help them be more active as they jump in and out of them, surprising their targets.

Should I Stop My Cat From Climbing in Boxes?

Cats enjoy playing in boxes. It is fun for them and provides them with something new and interesting to do. It’s a new area to explore that could also double as a safe stake-out location. As we mentioned before, they may also hide in boxes for the feeling of safety and seclusion they provide.

Therefore, before you remove your cat from its box, consider if it feels the need to be in it because it feels unsafe. If you are in a new environment, or your cat feels threatened and unsafe, you may want to allow it to continue using the box as its safe place. Cats need an area where they can go to feel at ease, especially in a strange or chaotic environment.

Removing that place of safety can cause additional stress for your cat and could lead to your cat becoming ill or refusing to eat in protest. Try swapping out boxes for other safe places for your cat such as cat houses or huts. These will provide your cat with the same feeling of safety while removing the unsightly box.

Alternatives to Boxes for Cats

A lot of times, cats just need a good alternative to quell their curiosity. As much as they may love to hide and play in boxes, they will also love to climb and play on other alternatives. Let’s go over a few of the things you can provide your cat with to give it the fun (or security) that it may be looking for.

Scratching post

Scratching posts help provide your cat with another one of its natural instincts, which is to sharpen its nails. Unfortunately, many cat owners learn the hard way that this is something their cats cannot resist when they’re found sharpening their claws on the couch. Providing your cat with a designated place where it’s okay to sharpen their claws can help provide your cat with something engaging to do as well as save your furniture from being destroyed.

Best Overall
SMARTCAT The Ultimate 32-in Sisal Cat Scratching Post
  • Very durable
  • Wooden base provides stability
  • Made from natural fiber, sisal
  • Stylish look
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Cat Trees

Having a good quality cat tree in your home is another way you can allow your cat to explore and have fun without the need for cardboard boxes lying around. Cats love to climb things, but indoors there are not many places to climb on that we wouldn’t want them to be in (the counters, the refrigerator, the top of closets, etc.). So it’s important that cat owners provide an alternative that is meant for them to climb on top of like cat trees. They give your cat a place to perch and view the surroundings from up higher, which is exactly what your cat would do if it were outdoors.

Best Overall
Frisco 28-in Faux Fur Cat Tree & Condo
  • At 28-inches tall, this cat tree is the perfect size for apartments or small spaces
  • Features 2 scratching posts wrapped in sisal
  • Sisal is a very durable material
  • A dangly toy will entice your cat to play
  • This is an excellent basic cat condo that will provide your cat with countless hours of fun
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Cat House or Hut

As we touched on before, you can swap out the cardboard box your cat likes to hide in for a much more appealing cat house or cat hut. These can be left out all the time, unlike a cardboard box, and give your cat the same feeling of safety that hiding or lounging in a box does. It also gives your cat a quiet place to retreat to as well.

As much as we love to give our cats attention, sometimes cats do need their space. Especially if the cat is ill, recovering, or currently pregnant. In each of these scenarios, a quiet place where the cat can be alone is crucial. Never force your cat to come out of hiding if it is feeling ill (as long as it has received treatment), in recovery from an illness or surgery, or if the cat is pregnant. It is normal for a pregnant cat to hide more often during the moments leading up to labor, and a safe place to rest is important.

Overall Best
K&H PET PRODUCTS Birchwood Manor Outdoor Wooden Cat House
  • Made entirely of solid wood
  • Perfect for outdoor and indoor use
  • Easy to put together
  • Comes with a detachable cushion
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Interactive Cat Toys

Cats that are very active will need things that can keep their attention. Interactive cat toys are one way to do that. These toys can provide challenges for your cat as well as keep it active for more extended periods of time and allow your cat to have something fun to do instead of hiding and playing in the box.

Best for Kittens
Frisco Butterfly Cat Tracks
  • Budget-friendly
  • Available in baby blue or pink
  • Easy to assemble
  • Non-skid pads on the bottom
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Up Next

The Featured Image

Why do cats like boxes
Ginger cat lies in box.
© Konstantin Aksenov/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Freelance writer specializing in natural health and wellness.

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  2. Wired, Available here: https://www.wired.com/2015/02/whats-up-with-cats-and-boxes/
  3. Live Science, Available here: https://www.livescience.com/why-do-cats-like-boxes