The Reason Why Cats Like Boxes So Much

If you placed Garfield the lasagna-crazed cat smack dab in between the Playboy mansion and a discarded cardboard box from IKEA, he would beeline straight for the thick corrugated paper stock every time. Don't judge Garfield, for this is simply feline nature. But in keeping with tradition of the mysterious sphinx, no one knows exactly why cats love confined spaces. Don't worry, though; we've got top scientific minds aiming to crack the case.

A recent study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science found having a box to hide in reduced stress among newly-arrived shelter cats, allowing them to acclimate to their surroundings faster and begin interacting with humans.

Another hypothesis for why cats sit in anything that fits is that they're rather chilly. A 2006 study from the National Research Council found that a domestic cat's "thermoneutral zone," or the range of temperature it will find comfortable, is 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below or above requires energy to heat or cool themselves accordingly. This is about 20 degrees higher than that of humans, which is why cats love to lounge in the sun or curl up in our laps. It's also a boon to the idea that cats are molding themselves into oddly shaped nooks and crannies to keep warm. Corrugated cardboard especially, with its three layers, is an excellent insulator. If you had a stress-reducing, climate-cooled chamber to relax in, wouldn't you use it? You do, and it's called your living room.

From here, we venture into more conjecture than hard science, but there are a few other thoughts on what might influence the decision to commandeer a cardboard ship. The fine folks at Purina posit that cats love boxes not only because they make cozy sleep spots, but for their texture, which is perfect to bite and claw. The Humane Society states that claw sharpening is a necessary behavior for felines, allowing them to shed the outer layer of their talons like dead skin, to mark their turf through both visually and through scent, and to stretch their feet and claws, which get a little stiff after 18 hours of sleep per day.

So there you have it. Boxes are a comfy, cozy, heat regulating de-stressing chamber that cats can call their own, keeping them limber, calm, and focused on the present, everlasting "meow."