Cats are wonderfully strange, and pet parents often find themselves at a loss to explain their behavior. For example, experienced cat lovers know that it is a waste of money to buy your cat expensive toys – they will ignore them in favor of miscellaneous objects like milk bottle caps and rubber bands. Another preference that cat parents have a hard time explaining is a feline’s obsession with boxes. Allow us to elucidate.
The Science behind Boxes
While it is difficult to explain many of the things that cats do, many of their behaviors seem to be related to instinct and survival. One of the obvious advantages offered by a box is security – inside a box, there is the sense of being protected from all angles. There is also the matter of predation advantages. Cats are ambush predators – they like to sneak up on their prey and a box provides a great hiding place. Aside from these possibilities, behaviorists have come up with a few potential theories regarding why cats love boxes so much.
Potential Theories about Boxes
- Safety – Some of the more gregarious species have developed conflict resolution strategies, but cats are not one of those sorts – they tend to avoid skirmishes for the most part. To a cat, therefore, boxes may represent a safe zone, a place where feelings of hostility and anxiety go away. The problem with this theory is that it means boxes would appeal more to cats who are stressed or socially maladjusted. Many cat parents will tell you, however, that even their happiest cats spend a lot of time in boxes.
- Warmth – One reason cats like to sleep in boxes is that a small, enclosed space is warmer than the alternative. This may be why cats sleep in other odd places like curled up in the sink, inside paper shopping bags, or in other confined areas. According to a 2006 study, cats prefer temperatures between 86° and 97°F, which is about 20° higher than the average comfortable temperature for humans. Small boxes are great insulators, helping the cat to stay warm by preserving body heat.
- Curiosity – Cats are known for being curious four-legged friends and sometimes a box simply presents an opportunity for exploration. Your cat likes to investigate every new thing that comes into the home and he spends a lot of time prowling around the house, keeping an eye on things. A box is something that your cat cannot see directly into, so he hops inside to check it out.
- Scratching – There is a reason why many cat-scratching boards are made of cardboard – your cat likes the texture and it is easy for him to dig his claws into it. Your feline companion has glands between his toes that leave behind some of his scent as he scratches and it just feels good for him to stretch out his claws. A box provides an opportunity for both of those things.
While biologists and behaviorists may not know exactly why cats love boxes, it does not seem to be a behavior that is likely to go anywhere. If you want to give your cat a safe place to hang out or something to play with, a box is a great inexpensive option.