Ordinary, cat-sized cardboard boxes should be in all cat shelters. Is there a reason why they shouldn’t?
The exact reason why tight fitting boxes are attractive to domestic cats is not completely understood, as yet. There are probably several reasons. I have proposed one: pressure on the cat makes him feel calm. The other is that boxes are hiding places. I have just read that a study by Cluadia Vinke of Ultrecht University in the Netherlands discovered a dramatic lowering of stress in cats that had a box to clamber into. The lowering of stress allowed the cats to seek out human company faster and get to used to their new surroundings quicker. The study supports my opinion that boxes provide a domestic cat with a pleasant experience.
In many places, even in households, and certainly in cat and animal shelters there is a raised level of stress for many reasons, one of which is that shelters are strange, noisy places full of cats and people the cats don’t know, at least initially.
It would seem common sense to me for shelter management to make good use of freely available cardboard boxes.
I don’t know whether they do. I am guessing that some shelters do and some don’t and that the use of boxes is not widespread. If you add in some high places for the cat to rest (provided the cage is large and tall enough), the beginnings of a less hostile environment starts to take shape even if the cats are cheek-by-jowl with many on ‘death row’ because they are too old or black.
Another reason why cats like boxes is that they provide insulation so the cat is warmer but of all the reason I prefer mine as it is an emotional trigger.