No doubt you’ve seen it, whether with your own kitty or one on the internet: a cat lounging in a sink, bowl, vase, or especially a cardboard box. Cats are drawn to containers and tend to adopt the “if I fits, I sits” mantra. They’ll even try to fit into boxes that are far too small for them, because, well, box. But why do cats like boxes so much?
It only takes a quick internet search to find photos of big cats (like lions and tigers) at the zoo also enjoying appropriately sized cardboard boxes. This proves that cats and boxes go together like peanut butter and jelly. And the reason may partly have to do with the instincts of a cat. In the wild, cats appreciate a good hiding spot that can protect them from predators while at the same time allowing them to sneakily stalk their prey. A box is the perfect modern solution for domestic kitties. Sitting in a box provides a sense of protection on all four sides from anything that might sneak up on them, and they can covertly prepare to pounce on your feet as you walk by.
At 100.5 to 102.5 degrees, a house cat’s body temperature runs warmer than a human’s, which averages around 98.6 degrees. The temperature to which most of us set our thermostats is actually a little chilly for cats who would be most comfortable in an environment set to 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a 2006 study by the National Research Council. Because cats are always seeking warmth, a box can be a great option. Fitting snugly into a cardboard box can help provide insulation—it’s like a cardboard sweater for your kitty!
Some cat experts suggest that the secure feeling of a box might mimic the snuggly warmth your cat felt as a kitten while cuddling her mother and littermates. This relaxing, comforting feeling can help reduce stress. In fact, a 2015 study supports the theory that boxes help reduce a cat’s stress levels. Researchers from the University of Utrecht randomly divided new shelter cats into two groups: one group received boxes and the other group did not. Being brought into the unfamiliar environment of a shelter can be stressful to a cat.
“Stressful experiences can have a major impact on the cats' welfare and may cause higher incidences of infectious diseases in the shelters due to raised cortisol levels causing immunodeficiency,” the researchers explained.
After only a few days, they reported that the group of cats that were given boxes recovered faster and adapted to their environment more quickly than the cats without boxes.
Feeling safe, warm, and relaxed: it appears to be all pros and no cons when it comes to boxes for cats. Now that you have a peek into the workings of your kitty’s mind, you might not be so quick to toss your empty Amazon boxes into the recycle bin!
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