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Whenever I bring a box home, or I get a package in the mail, both of my cats immediately have to inspect it thoroughly. As soon as it's empty, they'll be playing games with it: jumping in and out, guarding it from the other, etc. If I toss a toy into a box, they'll drop whatever they're doing to immediately get the toy. I've noticed that they'll even grab one of their toys to bring it into the box to play with.

Why do cats love sleeping on cardboard? doesn't explain why cats play with cardboard as mine do. My cats sleep on the bed with me; they don't sleep in the boxes except for a few occasions where they wear themselves out and don't feel like leaving the box to sleep.

Their playing reminds me of kids playing with their imaginations, turning boxes into spaceships and things like that. What is it about boxes that cats enjoy?

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For what it's worth, our cat never thought much of boxes... it's not a thing all cats do. –  badp Apr 8 at 22:22
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3 Answers 3

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Not being a cat myself makes it hard to speculate about their motives, but my guess is:

  • Cats seem to enjoy nesting an playing in snuggly-cuddly enclosed spaces. Not just cardboard boxes, but also baskets, laundry baskets, etc

  • The insulation properties of the cardboard probably gives it a warm feel, which cats enjoy.

  • Cardboard is easily scratchable and chewable.

  • The flaps are fun to play with, and makes it into a neat hiding place from which one can stalk ones enemies.

Our cat was very fond of my mother's wicker baskets, and would exhibit much the same behaviour as you are describing, and would also enjoy the smell of the wood.

(BTW, I've also had the opportunity to observe parrots and boxes; for them the appeal seems to be that they are chewable, as well as the intriguing conflict between being scared senseless and being curious about what the new thing is.)

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Cats enjoy boxes because they love hiding places. When they are inside a box they are covered on all sides but one. Which means they are safe and can keep an eye out on the one open side. Boxes also allow for the cats to quickly dart from the box if something of interest appears, and allows for a quick retreat if necessary.

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I think they like the texture and the scratchy noise it makes. It really stimulates their senses. –  ppumkin Feb 27 at 19:51
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This video, Here's Why Cats Love Boxes So Much, contains explanation by Stephen Zawistowski (Science Advisor, ASPCA) on why cats love being in boxes .

The video is quite short, with some cute cat footages, and the main points are:

  • they feel security and can be approached without being aware of it

  • they can watch what's around them while feeling safe and secure and they can "dash out" if something interesting comes by

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What does it say? We're looking for self-contained answers, not just pointers to answers. Please summarize. Thanks. –  Monica Cellio Mar 10 at 3:38
    
@MonicaCellio This video won't save the world but I think it was worth the edit. –  Cedric H. Mar 10 at 9:11
    
Thanks @CedricH. Now if the video goes away at some point in the future we still have an answer. –  Monica Cellio Mar 10 at 12:30
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