Cats have a special bond with boxes. If you've ever had empty boxes sitting out, you probably saw your cat happily leaping from box to box like he was in a kitty amusement park. And who hasn't experienced the joy of buying a new cat bed, only to find your cat liked the box it came in even more? Loving boxes isn't just a funny quirk. Cats actually have instinctual reasons for their fancy. Though scientists haven't proven the exact connection between kitty instincts and boxes, here are their four best hypotheses.

1. Cats Feel Safe in Boxes

Cats don't like surprises. If you've ever accidentally dropped something around your cat, you may have noticed she immediately took off running. Well, boxes pretty much guarantee that no one can sneak up on your cat. When she's surrounded on all sides by walls, she's insulated from surprises. When cats lived in the wild, this was especially important while they were sleeping. Now, the need for that safety is instinctual.

cat sitting inside a brown box

2. Cats Use Boxes to Hunt

Cats love to hunt, and boxes provide another outlet for that hunting instinct. Boxes give cats a place where they can hide while they're stalking their prey, so they have a better chance of pouncing and getting the prize. In a house cat's case, this prey could be a bug, a toy, or even your feet.

3. Boxes Are a Stress Reliever

Boxes are a big stress reducer for cats. One study in the Netherlands found that new shelter cats who had access to boxes were far less stressed than shelter cats who didn't. In fact, the shelter cats with boxes adjusted to their new lives much faster and interacted with humans better, too. Part of this may be because cats instinctively like to hide, and boxes give them an outlet for that instinct.

4. Cats Are Cozy and Warm in Boxes

Ever notice how your cat is always trying to curl up in a warm spot? This is because a cat's "thermoneutral zone" is likely a lot warmer than your house. Cats prefer a temperature range of 86 to 97 degrees. Since your house is likely too cool for your cat, he may enjoy curling up in a little ball in a small box. Cardboard can be a good insulator, which adds to the warmth factor.

If you want an inexpensive way to make a "playground" for your cat, just set out a few boxes. Want to make her love them even more? Sprinkle a few Meow Mix Irresistibles® treats inside.