Letting Your Cat Play in Your Leftover Cardboard Boxes Is Actually Good For Them – Here's Why

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Cats are mysterious creatures. Their behavior even baffles their own owners. But there is one thing everyone agrees on – cats love boxes. More often than not, cats are more interested in the boxes their new toys come in than the toys themselves! Even the most expensive and interactive toys can’t compare to a simple cardboard box. But why do cats love boxes? POPSUGAR turned to the experts to understand this mysterious feline behavior and how to safely prepare empty boxes in your home.

Related: I Cannot Figure Out Why My Cat Begs For Water From the Sink, So I Asked 2 Vets

Why Does My Cat Love Boxes?

Cats enjoy boxes for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s a new item for them to investigate, said Mikel Delgado, PhD, a cat behavior researcher at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who works with Rover. Their natural curiosity drives them to figure out the purpose of the item. The interesting smells and rustling sound from the wrinkly packing paper only add to the intrigue, she said.

The second reason has to do with the warmth of boxes. Cats prefer ambient temperatures to be higher than what most humans enjoy, Delgado explained, and because cardboard is a great insulator, cats often curl up in boxes to preserve body heat.

Boxes also provide a sense of safety, Matthew McCarthy, DVM, owner of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital in Middle Village, NY, told POPSUGAR. Cats are both predators and prey, but because of the latter, many of their behaviors are self-protective. Boxes offer a safe zone for cats by guarding against the dangers of wide-open spaces and allowing for easier escape in response to a perceived threat, he explained. The security of an enclosed space even helps to reduce stress in cats.

The final reason has to do with the texture of boxes, Dr. McCarthy said – cardboard is one of the best materials for scratching. This allows cats to mark their territory with both scent and visible markings, sharpen their claws, remove dead nails, and stretch their muscles, he said.

How Do I Safely Prepare Cardboard Boxes For My Cat?

To make sure your cat stays safe, Delgado recommends removing all packaging material, including any staples or exposed tape. She suggests placing a fleece blanket or towel inside the box to make it even more inviting for your cat. Dr. McCarthy also stresses the importance of leaving cats alone in their box, as it is now their safe space. Kicking, shaking, or lifting the box can turn their safe space into something quite the opposite. Taking photos of how cute they look, however, is fair game.

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