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Why Do Cats Like Cardboard So Much? 7 Main Reasons


Apr 24, 2023
Beautiful sweet cat is laying inside cardboard box


Beautiful sweet cat is laying inside cardboard box

If you own a cat, you might have noticed that when you give her a toy, she prefers playing with a cardboard box carrier instead of the toy itself. If you have, do not fret because this is not unusual behavior. In fact, most cats have a special affinity for boxes, especially if they are made from cardboard.

So, what is it about cardboard boxes that seem to fascinate cats so much?

From enjoying the texture of the box to seeking comfort or even something fun to play around with, various reasons can explain these unusual relationships between cats and cardboard boxes.

Read on to learn more.


The 7 Reasons Why Cats Love Cardboard Boxes So Much

A cardboard box is a container made up of thick paperbound material. It comprises three layers; an outside liner, an inside liner, and a fluting medium between the two layers.

The boxes’ flutes provide structure and support to the box, making it sturdy enough to store or carry items. Usually, after using cardboard boxes, most people consider them as trash, but your cat may not get enough of them.

That being said, below we explore some of the main reasons that make this type of container irresistible to cats.

cat sitting inside diy cardboard box toy
Image Credit: Cat Box, Shutterstock

1. Cardboard Boxes Are Snug and Secure

One of the main reasons why your furry companion may not get enough of this commodity is the fact that it provides small, confined places that cats love. Not only will the cardboard box provide an ideal hiding place when waiting for unsuspecting victims, but it is also a suitable place to hide when confronted by potential predators.

For cats, hiding in nooks is instinctual, and they know that once they are safely tucked away in their box, no one can sneak up on them from the sides or behind. To them, no one can see them once inside, even if part of their body, such as the tail, is still hanging out.

2. Cardboard Boxes Act as Stress Relievers

Whenever cats are frightened or stressed out, they will naturally want to hide away in a spot where no one can disturb them. To them, a cardboard box is a great spot that helps to lower their stress levels. In fact, some research studies published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal also support the claim that boxes can help reduce a cat’s stress levels1.

3. Boxes Help Cats Adjust to New Surroundings

Another fascinating study2 on the relationship between cats and boxes was carried out on some shelter cats. When they were taken to their new homes, some were offered a cardboard box while some weren’t.

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that cats that were given cardboard boxes adapted much faster to their new surroundings compared to the cats that didn’t receive a box. Therefore, cardboard boxes can work wonders when trying to acclimate a cat to a new environment.

siamese cat in a cardboard box
Image Credit: Shchus, Shutterstock

4. Cardboard Boxes Provide Insulation

Generally, cats hate cold weather conditions, despite the fact they are equipped with a thick fur coat. Therefore, they will enjoy the insulating effect of a cardboard box, which allows them to stay warm and cozy. The inside of a cardboard box can help retain a cat’s natural body heat, thus maintaining stable temperatures as your cat snores away.

5. Cats Love the Texture of Cardboard Boxes

Another reason why cats will want to play with a cardboard box even when they can’t take refuge inside is the texture. These boxes feature a durable surface that is strong enough to provide resistance when your cat tears, rips, or bites into it.

As a matter of fact, many commercially produced scratching posts are made up of cardboard. Therefore, you can allow your cat to play with cardboard boxes without worrying that the surface will injure them. Cardboard boxes will also allow your cat to maintain cleanliness.

6. Cardboard Boxes Lack Chemical Smells

Most commercially produced cat toys, especially the box-like varieties, tend to have a strong chemical smell that cats abhor. Since cats have an extremely keen sense of smell, they can detect the chemical scent in the toys and avoid them.

However, cardboard boxes have a more natural scent, which is much more inviting to your furry companion. Not only that, but cardboard boxes are also biodegradable. So, they are better for the environment when compared to typical plastic toys. The cat may not care, but as an environmentally conscious person in the 21st century, you should.

black cat lying in box
Image credit: Luku Muffin, Unsplash

7. Cats Are Naturally Curious

While cats are known to be affectionate, loving, and entertaining family companions, they are more known for their curiosity. This is perhaps why the phrase “as curious as a cat” exists. Therefore, immediately a cat notices a cardboard box, it will spark curiosity, and your cat will want to know more about the material.

As soon as your cat moves closer to inspect the cardboard box, chances are that it will definitely be fascinated and find a new purpose for the box.


Tips for Ensuring Your Cat Stays Healthy and Safe

As you may have gathered by now, cats enjoy playing with cardboard boxes. Generally, these are considered safe for cats. But can you make them even safer?

Below are some tips to ensure that your cat is safe while playing around with cardboard boxes.

Ensure Your Cat Doesn’t Eat the Cardboard Box

As much as your cat may enjoy biting into the surface of the box, you should make sure that they do not swallow it. This is because large pieces of cardboard can damage your cat’s digestive system when ingested.

Not only that, but it could also be a sign that your cat is suffering from feline pica, a compulsion disorder that causes your cat to eat non-food items. So, pay closer attention when your cat is biting or chewing on cardboard boxes.

Ensure the Box Doesn’t Have Sharp Edges

In the heat of the moment, cats can get overly enthusiastic about chewing on the surface of cardboard boxes, so much so that they can easily hurt themselves on the sharp edge of the box. Granted, the typical Amazon cardboard box may not be too sharp for your feline companion, but there are some robust boxes with very sharp edges that you shouldn’t offer your cat.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Ensure that the cardboard box that you offer your cat isn’t treated with any kind of chemical or coating. Some cardboard boxes (especially those used to transport and store food) have chemical additives to make them more sturdy and water-resistant. A standard untreated or clean cardboard box will feature fewer chemicals but is still not safe for your cat to eat.



As much as we may want to, we can’t exactly ask a cat why it likes cardboard boxes. However, it’s not a coincidence that they have an inexplicable attraction for this transport and storage container. Their affinity for these items that most of us consider trash can be traced back to their natural behaviors and instincts.

Cats will enjoy taking refuge inside a cardboard box because it appeals to their desire to hide in small and cozy spots. Also, cardboard boxes provide a sense of comfort and security when faced with stressful situations. They also like these boxes because of their texture that allows them to bite, chew and play with it without the risk of injury.

Featured Image Credit: Strong Pictures, Shutterstock

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