If you have cats, you already know how much the boxes mean to them. It doesn’t matter how big the boxes are, if they come across one, they just can’t resist squeezing into it. So why do cats love boxes so much?
Cats sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day. Considering this, they don’t really seem like the kind of mammal that can experience anxiety. But, what’s true is that they do experience anxiety like any other mammal, and sitting inside the box helps them cope with it.
Moreover, boxes offer security, making them feel like they are in a protected place where they can lurk, observe and hunt their prey without worrying about being attacked. Their ambush predatory behavior also always makes them prepared to surprise their next target.
To study stress levels in cats and how boxes act as a coping mechanism, a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science observed a group of cats that had just arrived at a new animal shelter. For cats, new environment can be stressful and because of their predatory behavior, it makes them difficult to even survive.
In the study, researchers ranked their anxiety using a system known as the Kessler and Turner Cat-Stress-Score, where they looked at factors such as their activity levels, and their ear and tail positions. They found that the stress levels for cats that were given boxes to hide in went way down only in three days and got used to their new surroundings faster than those that weren’t given boxes to hide in. Also, it took them two weeks to reach the same low level of stress as cats with boxes did.
So for cats, it’s crucial to have an enclosed space for their safety and security, especially in high-stress situations. The same is true for large cats, too. Tigers and jaguars are seen hiding in trees, caves, or other concealed spaces in a situation like this.
Cats do not appear to have good conflict resolution as well. Instead of working things out, they simply run away from their problems and curl up in a box, which is a safe zone for them.
Another reason why cats like boxes so much is that they like to stay warm. While 24 degrees Celsius might be comfortable enough for you, your feline friends prefer much warmer temperatures, between 30 and 36 degrees. By being inside a cardboard box, they can trap some of their body heat to make up few of those degrees. This also explains why cats love to sprawl out in sunlight or curl up on top of your heating vent.
So it’s not just the boxes, cats also try to fit into any enclosed space even if there is not enough room, and they do so get rid of anxiety and stay away from hostility and unwanted attention.
Oh, cats love circles too. If you want to try out, draw a circle on the floor or make one using string or tea towels, you cat will enter the circle and it won’t just leave.