Why are cats so fascinated with boxes?
If you’ve been reading our weekly Cute Cat Monday posts, you’ll know that we’ve moved.
Yes indeed, the whole Why Cat Clan, featuring myself, Mr. Why Cat, and the two little Why-Oh-Why-Cats themselves (Sita and Pippin), have uprooted our lives in New York City and relocated to the green slopes of Seattle, WA.
This post is a little aperitif to tee up to my impending “How To Move Your Cats Cross-Country WHY WOULD YOU DO SUCH A THING” post (here).
Because moving = boxes. And cats, in addition to being morbidly fascinated with boxes, love to be in the way all the time. Which naturally got me to thinking…Why, cat? And why boxes, specifically?
Let’s break it down…
For the love of warms
So boxes are made of cardboard, which is really just paper on steroids. Ever noticed that your cat likes to gravitate towards that solitary sheet of paper you’re writing on, over the 548-odd other areas of your house where she could be sleeping? Yea. That’s not purely attention-seeking behavior (although that is a big part of it).
Paper is an excellent insulator, and even a single sheet resting on a tabletop can reflect a substantial amount of a cat’s body heat back at them.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: The temperature range at which cats are most comfortable (and don’t feel the need to generate extra body heat) is a toasty 86 to 97 degrees F.
At such highs, we the peoples are usually cranking up the AC or stripping down to our skivvies for a dip in the pool. It’s no wonder our furballs are such single-minded heat-seeking missiles. So, in a pinch, paper serves as a kitty’s portable heating pads. And cardboard, being a heavy duty, dual-layered specimen of paper product, is kitty heat insulation crack.
For the love of hides
Cats, in addition to being constantly cold and endearingly neurotic, are paranoid little buggers. And what better spontaneous hidey-hole than a box?
Research has actually found that shelter cats provided with boxes and hiding places will acclimate to unfamiliar surroundings nearly 4 times faster than their counterparts left out in the open.
For a stressed out kitty, a box is protection from unwanted attention, potential predators, and a safe “base” from which to explore their new territory. I recall reading somewhere that providing a timid cat with access to hiding places does more harm than good, as it “reinforces” a cat’s “antisocial” behavior. Let’s go ahead and call that myth debunked, shall we?
Some more (purely anecdotal) evidence: Pippin, the resident skittish little jumping bean of our family, became dramatically more relaxed and confident in our new apartment after the arrival of our bed frame. COOL, RIGHT?
Right, some explanation. Whereas previously he was reduced to cowering in the shadow of the odd suitcase and a precarious labyrinth of upturned boxes (I arranged as many of them in as reassuring a composition as I could), the installation of our bed frame finally delivered the secure, shadowy recesses he’d been so desperately craving. After a few hours of restorative under-bed hiding therapy, he was out and about, sniffing the air and trailing Sita (the fearless one) around the house.
For the love of play
Cats love to explore. Exploration is their steez. (“But not too much of it, so don’t get cray cray with that harness and leash nonsense,” I can practically hear Sita side-eyeing at me.)
For indoor cats, a newfound box sitting in the middle of a thoroughly-explored house is the closest thing they’ll have to exciting, uncharted territory.
It’s a tiny room, within a room. It’s a closed door, that rather than having to claw and yowl at, they can, after some careful inspection, hop right into.
The world looks a bit different from the bottom of a box. Shapes come and go, peeking out over the rim. Things are quieter. There’s nothing on all four sides but solid, comforting paper. And best of all, a box means they’re invisible. If they’re extra careful, they just might be able to score their third dog ambush of the day from within its confines. And nothing, my friends, is sweeter to a cat than a well-timed dog ambush. Nothing. Except maybe the smell of me making a tuna sandwich.
So there you have it. For our cats, boxes are a cozy insulator, a comforting hideaway, and fresh territory from which they might catch a glimpse of the new and undiscovered. Like a road trip at night down a moonlit highway, except in cat dimensions.
More than you ever wanted to know about our cross-country move, on the blog now! And of course, everything I learned about how to wrangle, soothe, and pummel (kidding) unhappy cats into submission.