While more research is still needed, there is an explanation that makes total sense: security.
Cats feel secure in boxes
In an article for The Conversation, Nicholas Dodman, a Professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University says, “It’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer.
“Instead of being exposed to the clamour and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.”
Additionally, Mark Freeman, a clinical assistant professor at the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine, told Reader’s Digest, cats prefer to have a space where they can sit back and watch the world go by.
“Cats are, by nature, cryptic animals, meaning they prefer to have a safe hiding spot from which they can observe the world around them,” he says.
“Cats are both hunter and prey, so having a secure space from which they can monitor threats from predators and prey is ideal.”
Contact with the box releases endorphins
Nicholas says to think of it as “swaddling behaviour” – something parents do with their babies.
“The close contact with the box’s interior, we believe, releases endorphins – nature’s morphine-like substances – causing pleasure and reducing stress,” he writes.
What about flat boxes or shopping bags? Or when people tape squares on the ground? Nicholas says, there’s a good chance that this ‘virtual box’ is a “representation of what might be."
“Without a real box, a square on the ground may be the next best thing for a cat, though it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.”
“This virtual box may provide some misplaced sense of security and psychosomatic comfort.”
While it might be fun to experiment with items your cat will sit in, let’s not forget cats need proper boxes and hidey holes to feel safe in their environment.
Happy cat, happy life.
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