They satisfy a need.
Empty boxes satisfy an instinctual need in cats to hide from predators and to lurk in a safe, dark place from which to stalk their prey. That’s not to say you are in any way a threat to your cat, or that your cat is looking for opportunities to stalk you, but this makeshift toy is satiating his natural tendencies to hide and stalk. For cats, empty boxes represent safety and security.
They act as stress relievers.
Hiding out in boxes also apparently helps your cat relax. That’s according to the findings of a study by researchers at Ultrecht University in the Netherlands. The study found that sheltered cats that had access to empty boxes had lower stress scores than those cats who didn’t, suggesting cats retreat to dark, confined spaces to better cope with environmental stressors.
They provide a safe, warm place to sleep.
Your cat may not be stressed while living in your home, but the box may provide an attractive place for him to do what he does best: sleep for up to 20 hours a day! Boxes also tend to be warm. Since a cat’s normal body temperature is slightly higher than a human’s, they tend to prefer environmental temperatures from 85 to 97 degrees. If you’re like most homeowners, you likely have your thermostat set between 70 and 72 degrees. That insulated cardboard box becomes an even more attractive place for your cat to hibernate.
They’re just fun to investigate.
Cats are curious. They are easily intrigued by new things in their personal space, or items that aren’t typically encountered daily. So, if you plop an empty box down, a cat will naturally deem it worthy of exploration. While your cat has fun investigating, you can be entertained while you watch him roll around in it, pounce in and out, and fall asleep inside of it.
Before you give your cat free reign of an empty box, be sure to remove any choking hazards, like tape, staples, strings, rubber bands, plastic, or silicone packets. Now that you’ve got the lowdown on why cats love boxes, you can concentrate on how to enhance their experience and keep them safe at the same time. Place your cat’s favorite blanket or a piece of your clothing inside, especially when you’re away so they can snuggle up against your scent. Thanks to that cardboard box, you can return to a stress-free, satisfied and comfortably warm fur friend.
If you want to give your cat a treat that will either perk him up or put him to sleep, consider catnip.
Worry you're becoming the stereotypical "crazy cat lady?" You can breathe a sigh of relief.