Picture this: you just purchased a brand new cat tree for your favorite feline friend. This is a brand new, high end cat tree and your thinking "man my cat is going to go wild for this!". You get home, remove the pieces from the box and assemble your new tree. You finally let your cat in to explore the new tree, your so excited aaaaaaand yup... he is in the box. In the eye of a cat, a simple box is better than any toy you could buy. What is it about boxes that cats find so completely irresistible?
Our houses are a fun and strange place to live for a tiny apex predator to live 24/7. Playing with boxes or anything new to the home is a great way to counter boredom. When watching our cats hop in and out and scouting in boxes, we are witnessing classic feline hunting behavior, sort of an ambush performance. In nature, felines do not chase after their prey like you see in wild dogs or wolves. Instead, cats are very hidden, sudden and explosive hunters who stalk their prey for miles without being noticed. Cats like to be inside of boxes because they are perceived as secretive hiding places from where they can lie in wait and watch the world around them.
Boxes Help With Stress
The study of the behavior of cats and boxes has been ongoing for decades. It may be no shock to find out that your cat friend receives a feeling of comfort and security from tight or enclosed spaces. It has been proven that providing your cat with a small or enclosed hiding space has a drastic impact on their behavior and physiology. In the case of newly adopted or rescue cats, cats with boxes got used to their surroundings faster, were far less stressed, and had much more confidence in interacting with their new human companions.
This may come as no surprise, but cats... are not the greatest species for conflict resolution. Rather than try come up with a solution, or work things out, they are more ready to simply run away and hide from the problem, in a box for example. Ah yes, the box in this case represents a safe zone for your cat. All animals have different coping mechanisms, and hiding in a box (or any small space) is a cats first choice when feeling scared, overwhelmed or in danger. They feel safe knowing that they can can see, but cannot be seen.
If I Fits, I Sits!
Outside the realm of boxes, cat owners will notice that their cat likes to pick odd places to unwind. This can include bowls, sinks, bags, shoes, cupboards, pots & pans, etc. It has been proven that cats prefer a higher ambient temperature than us humans do, around 86°F - 92°F in fact! Of course, this is far to high and to expensive for us humans to live comfortably. This may explain why cats like to curl up in small confined areas, to increase their internal body temperature then they are cold. Provide your cat with a small cat bed to curl up and sleep in during the night, especially in winter.