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Why do cats love cardboard boxes so much?

Scottish cat squashed in a cardboard box

Cardboard boxes act as stress relievers for cats.

© Skrotov - Shutterstock

You may have noticed that your cat seems to love cardboard? But why is your moggy so enamoured of the stuff? Here we dive deep into why cats love cardboard.

By Natasha James

Published on the 08/06/2021, 17:00

Ever noticed that your cat seems to prefer the cardboard box that their new toy arrived in, to the toy itself? Well, you’re not alone! All cats seem perennially fascinated by boxes, particularly if they're made of cardboard.

But why? What is it about the brown stuff that moggies seem to love so much? Here, we take a closer look.

5 reasons why cats love boxes so much

Want to know why your cat is so obsessed with cardboard? We asked the experts and found there are some very simple reasons why your cat can't get enough of cardboard!

1. Boxes are snug and secure

There are a number of reasons why cats love cardboard but top of the list is that cats love small, confined spaces. Cats are both predators and prey and a secure cardboard box acts as both a shelter and a lookout post. Hiding in nooks is an instinctive behaviour in cats and they know that once they’re firmly tucked away in their box, no intruder can sneak up on them from behind or the side.

2. Cardboard boxes act as stress relievers

When cats are stressed out or frightened, it’s in their nature to hide away in a spot where no one can see them. Having a space where they can do this, lowers stress levels and acts as a safe space for your four-legged pal.

3. Boxes help cats adjust to new surroundings

A fascinating study was carried out recently on a group of shelter cats. When they were taken to their new home, half were given a cardboard box and half weren’t. The cats with the cardboard boxes adapted to their new environment much quicker than the cats without - showing that a dedicated safe space can work wonders for your cat.

4. Cardboard boxes are warm and cosy

Interestingly, cardboard is an insulator, so when your cat curls up in a snug cardboard box it’s incredibly warm and cosy in there. We're almost tempted to join them!

5. Cats love the texture

Cardboard is an interesting texture for cats. They can rip it, tear it and bite into it but it still provides enough resistance to make it worth their while! Essentially, cardboard is great fun for your cat. To you, it might look like a boring old brown box but to your cat, it looks like hours of fun!

Do cats like the smell of cardboard?

Not only do cats like to hide in and play with cardboard but it seems they also love the smell. According to a paper published in Applied Animal Behaviour, researchers found that cardboard boxes reduced stress levels in cats because the scent itself has soothing properties.

Why do cats like to eat cardboard?

It’s instinctive behaviour for cats to rip and chew their prey and experts believe they’re replicating this natural reflex when they attack cardboard. Thanks to its tough yet pliable properties, cardboard is a very satisfying plaything for a cat. They’ll use their claws and teeth to shred the cardboard when they have excess energy to burn off - which, we're sure you'll agree, is infinitely better than them taking it out on the furniture!

Is it okay for my cat to eat cardboard?

On the whole, allowing your cat to shred and chew cardboard is fine but be sure to monitor your moggy for a condition called pica. If you notice that your cat is regularly eating cardboard and other non-edible objects such as fabrics, plastic and rubbish, this could be a sign that your cat has the condition. Pica can cause intestinal blockages so needs to be monitored carefully.

If your cat loves cardboard then they’re not alone! Cats love the security and comfort that cardboard boxes can bring. Consider investing in some cardboard cat toys to make sure they’re playing with appropriate products for them.

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