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Why Cats Love Hanging Out in Boxes, Explained

Published On 10/18/2016 Published On 10/18/2016

If you've spent any time on the internet, you know that cats love boxes. They like sleeping in boxes, hiding in boxes, diving into boxes (hey, Maru), and using boxes to hunt. Maybe that's caused you to wonder why this seems to be universal for all cats. 

As they often do, Sci Show has the answer to one of the world's most pressing questions. For this question, there are a couple of answers. But the big reason is that cats have anxiety. That probably seems a little strange, since cats are basically slothful layabouts that refuse to get a job or clean up after themselves, but it's true. Getting in an enclosed space like a box helps reduce their anxiety. In a box, they feel safe and also feel protected to be able to hunt, because, as Sci Show highlights, they're naturally ambush predators.

It's not conjecture, there have actually been studies about how cats use boxes to reduce stress. One study looked at cats who had just arrived at an animal shelter. The researchers used the Kessler and Turner Cat-Stress-Score to observe the animals. That includes noting activity levels and their ear and tail positions. 

Cats who had boxes to hide in saw their anxiety levels reduced in around three days after arrival, while cats without an enclosed space took around two weeks to reach those same levels of reduced anxiety. 

Outside of anxiety, it's believed that cats also like boxes because houses are generally a little colder than cats would prefer. Curling up into a box helps them stay warm. That's the same reason your cat probably likes taking naps in a beam of sunlight or lying down near the radiator.

So, if you get a new cat, get them a box to hang out in. It won't stop them from being so lazy, but they'll probably feel a little better about life. 

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record, but has never met the fingernail lady. He’s written for Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, The Rumpus, and other digital wonderlands. Follow him @dlukenelson.

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