There is an object that’s pretty much guaranteed to pique the interest of every cat in the world. That object is a cardboard box. Any box, really. Big boxes, small boxes, irregularly shaped boxes—it doesn’t matter. Place the one you just got from an online order on the ground and watch your furry feline quickly commandeers it.
Thankfully, cat behavioral experts and veterinarians have come up with a few other interesting explanations. In fact, when you look at all the evidence together, it could be that your cat may not just like boxes, he may need them. Cats are ambush predators, and boxes provide great hiding places to stalk prey.
Cats who are in a stressful situation like a shelter or a new home, a box or some other type of separate enclosure can have a profound impact on both their behavior and physiology.
Working with domestic cats in a Dutch animal shelter, Vinke provided hiding boxes for a group of newly arrived cats while depriving another group of them entirely. She found a significant difference in stress levels between cats that had the boxes and those that didn’t. In effect, the cats with boxes got used to their new surroundings faster, were far less stressed early on, and were more interested in interacting with humans.
So rather than work things out, cats are more inclined to simply run away from their problems or avoid them altogether. A box, in this sense, can often represent a safe zone, a place where sources of anxiety, hostility, and unwanted attention simply disappear.