“If I Fits, I Sits!” Why Cats Love Boxes So Much
Whether it’s from Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, or even KitNipBox (!), the moment you’ve finished unloading your latest online purchase, you can bet the box it came in will soon be dubbed as “the cat box.” Many cat parents remain baffled by their cats’ love of boxes, asking questions like: “Why is the expensive cat tree collecting dust, while my old shoebox is being treated like a queen’s throne?”
There’s no 100% proven scientific explanation about why cats excitedly climb into boxes, though a few theories have been explored by experts on cat behavior.
One possible theory has to do with how cats, when out in the wild, perceive small, enclosed spaces as safe havens, protecting them against predators and other outdoor hazards. Since cats sleep 18-20 hours per day, seeking out these types of hidden spaces would increase their chances of survival.
This sense of security coincides with Utrecht University in Netherlands ethologist Claudia Vinke’s hypothesis that boxes reduce stress in cats. In her recent study, Vinke noted that the anxiety levels of shelter cats with nearby boxes were significantly lower, compared to cats who lacked them in their vicinity. Additionally, shelter cats with boxes acclimated to their new surroundings and engaged with their caregivers at an accelerated rate.
“Hiding is a behavioral strategy of the species to cope with environmental changes and stressors,” Vinke explained in an email exchange with Wired.
Another reason why kitties might prefer their cat box: warmth. With a normal body temperature ranging from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees, cats come equipped with a high tolerance for hotter climates. Considering how most peoples’ thermostats are adjusted to around 72-degrees, it’s possible that cats find the insulating effects of boxes amenable to their preferred setting of 86-97 degrees.
Altogether, these factors make a purrty decent case to keep a couple of empty boxes accessible in your home, especially if you’re welcoming a new kitten or cat into your household. Placing a soft towel with treats inside the box may also help create a calm, comfortable, and happy environment for your kitty to nestle in!
Header image credit: @beansleybrothers