Cats in boxes: Study shows that cats given boxes are less stressed

Christmas is a fun time of the year for our cats. A major reason is cats know they’ll be getting the best gift of all from their human servant: a new box!

even big cats feel better in a box
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Several years ago researchers from the University of Utrecht (the Netherlands) conducted a study which was published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science on how cats alleviate stress in shelter cats.

We all know how much our cats love boxes. The term “if I fits, I sits” is directed at cats addicted to spending their time checking out the new box mum or dad just brought in.

Researchers took boxes to a Dutch animal shelter and offered the boxes to the new shelter cats. A controlled 14-day study using the Kessler and Turner Cat-Stress Score was done where ten cats were given boxes and nine were not.  The cats who received boxes recovered faster and became more comfortable in the shelter environment than the cats without a box and had a lower CSS.

These results didn’t take long to accredit. Just three to four days into the study the group knew they were on to something. According to a 2016 post on the Best Cat page

“Stressful experiences can have a major impact on the cats’ welfare and may cause higher incidences of infectious diseases in the shelters due to raised cortisol levels causing immunodeficiency. Though several studies showed a preference for hiding places and stress-reducing effects of hiding boxes on cats in combined studies, none of these studies determined if proper hiding enrichment would be effective in a quarantine cattery.”

Each cat given a box had very little difference in their individual score while those not gifted with empty boxes showed statistics all over the place. Meaning they were all stressed out, just some were more stressed than others.

As you open your gifts or if you have empty boxes from preparing for the holiday, please keep in mind your cat is eyeing you closely for an empty box.

Why do boxes help relieve stress in cats?

I am not sure that there is a definitive answer. I don’t recall reading one. However, it seems that cats feel protected by a box and they feel the pressure of the sides of the box which make the cat feel more secure. They get a similar feeling sitting inside a chalked circle on the ground. This indicates a purely psychological feeling that a being in a small area affords the cat protection.

Objects similar to boxes have a similar result:

Domestic cats are the same as big cats
Domestic cats are the same as big cats

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1 thought on “Cats in boxes: Study shows that cats given boxes are less stressed”

  1. Spunky had his perfect box. It was one of those snack cracker boxes. He could lay in it and stretch out perfectly.

    Cats like confined spaces. I wonder if it means that predators can’t attack from all sides. Caves and small tunnels are probably preferred.

    I don’t see a box being much help, but in a home or shelter environment, it’s the next best thing.


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