I haven’t yet met a cat who wasn’t immediately attracted to boxes. What is truly amazing about this phenomenon is that no matter what shape or size they happen to be, after a few sniffs and a paw or two reaching inside a container, the rest of their body tries to find a way to wiggle inside it. This proves, (at least to me) that felines are magnetically drawn to boxes.
Of course we all remember Maru, that adorable kitty who continues to be one of the most famous internet stars. I am sure that we all got a case of the giggles while we watched him not only try everything possible to squeeze his body into the tiniest boxes; but when he also created his “sliding along the floor inside it” game.
I have often wondered what causes cats to go bonkers over boxes. So when I ran across a fascinating article written by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, I discovered some amazing facts that quenched my thirst for such vital information. I could hardly wait to share this information with our readers.
But dear readers, there actually are scientific reasons that the relationship between cats and boxes goes much deeper than the relationship between Romeo and Juliet.
Apparently a team of researchers from the faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands were interested in studying the stress that shelters cats experience. Since it was already a well-known fact that living in shelters is very stressful for cats, they decided that it was most appropriate to study stress in cats living in shelters.
What they learned was that if cats, (especially kittens) had access to boxes in which they could hide, their stress was reduced.
The group of cats the researchers studied consisted of 19 newly arrived cats at a Dutch animal shelter. However, only 10 cats were provided with boxes in which they could hide. The other nine cats were not provided with hiding boxes.
On the third day that the cats were house in the shelter, the researchers discovered something quite interesting between these two groups of cats. Apparently the group of cats with boxes in which they could hide appeared to adjust faster to the shelter environment than the group that didn’t have boxes. The group of cats with boxes was substantially less stressed than the other group, and demonstrated an increased desire to interact with humans.
According to the lead author of the study, researcher Claudia Vinke, an ethologist at Utrecht University, this feline behavior is not surprising since all felines respond to stress by hiding and withdrawing. Vinke said, “Hiding is a behavioral strategy of the species to cope with environmental changes and stressors.” Ethology is the study of animal behavior with an emphasis on the behavioral patterns that occur in natural environments.
Cats in the wild will climb trees or seek safety in caves or dens when they feel threatened. So isn’t it plausible that cats in captivity without that choice might seek safety by hiding in boxes as an alternative?
Another reason cats may be attracted to boxes and other small spaces is to preserve their body heat. Those of us who live with kitties have noticed that our cats enjoy other small spaces in which they may occasionally prefer to hang out. Our two kitties love to sneak into a dresser drawer to curl up for a nap. They also love crawling into paper shopping bags. Dr. Becker points out that some cats love hanging out in the bathroom sink.
Becker has a simple interpretation of this feline behavior. “Cats like it hot.” They prefer an environment between 86 and 97 degrees. She explains that:
“In this temperature range, your kitty doesn’t need to expend metabolic energy trying to either warm up or cool down.”
But since air conditioning is essential for folks residing in areas where the temperatures get brutally hot, cats living under these conditions will seek out spots in which they can stay warm.
Simon’s cat demonstrates the magnetic attraction that boxes hold for kitties. Enjoy a few belly-laughs while watching this oldie but goodie Simon’s cat video.
Do your cats go bonkers over boxes? Tell us about it in a comment.