Cats can be unpredictable, but one thing is for sure – if you have an empty box, there they will be. From feeling secure to getting toasty warm, it turns out there are lots of reasons cats love nestling into boxes.

 Cat sitting in a cardboard box

We’re all guilty of it at one time or another – prowling the internet for images of cats crammed into undersized boxes. Adorable as these pictures are, scientists and behavioural biologists contend that there are predatory and security benefits related to cats inhabiting boxes – it seems they don’t simply do it for our amusement.

Safety and security

While the inner workings of the feline mind are still not fully understood, it’s overwhelmingly clear that cats feel safe and secure in confined spaces. Studies into the different stress levels in shelter cats published in 2015 found that cats provided with a hiding box were less stressed early on, and were able to recover and adjust to their new environment faster.

Cats aren’t typically very good at conflict resolution either, so withdrawing and hiding is a fairly characteristic way for them to cope. Cats in the wild do this too – they’ll climb up trees or hide in caves, while our domestic friends might opt for an old shoebox.

Shelter from the cold

Cardboard is usually made up of multiple layers of card for durability, so it’s a good insulator. As a cat’s thermoneutral zone (the temperature range of the immediate environment in which a cat can maintain normal body temperature without having to expend extra energy) is between 30 and 36 degrees Celsius, so any additional warmth generated when they’re in a confined space is usually welcome – especially in the wintry months.

Predatory instincts

If your cat has ever brought you a present – a mouse or lizard – it’s probably no surprise to learn that cats are ambush predators. Boxes are great vantage points for cats to hunt from; they are hiding places from which to stalk their prey, and also safe places for them to retreat to.


Cats generally scratch things to mark their territory, sharpen their claws or when they’re simply bored. Cardboard is perfect for cats to play with because they can dig in their claws; similar to if they were climbing a tree. To avoid the mess of shredded cardboard strewn all over your house, try getting your cat a scratching post.