Cats around the world all love boxes. Whether they’re small shoe boxes or larger boxes – cats will climb inside and play with them for hours.
Scientists have theorised why cats are so obsessed with boxes. They say the most likely theory is that cats are instinctively drawn to boxes as they offer security and shelter from predators while they stalk their prey.
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According to a report by Bryan Gardiner in Wired, veterinarian Claudia Vinke of Utrecht University in the Netherlands recently studied stress levels in shelter cats.
She discovered that cats who had boxes got used to their new surroundings faster than those who didn’t because the boxes acted as a coping mechanism.
Boxes also offer safe places for cats to take a nap. Felines can sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day, so seeking out a hidden place would help their chances of survival in the wild.
‘Cats like boxes because they are cryptic animals; they like to hide,’ Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told Business Insider.
‘And a box gives them a place of safety and security.’
They could also be trying to escape unwanted attention. According toThe Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour, cats don’t have good conflict resolution strategies and running and hiding is a coping mechanism for this.
But it’s not just boxes. Cats appear to try to fit into any enclosed space such as drawers, shopping bags and even kettles.
Wired claims that this may be because cats are trying to stay warm. Compared to humans, felines have a much better tolerance to higher temperatures.
Small places are ideal insulators, which may explain while a cat will try and curl up in a shoe box.
A similar behaviour takes place when a cat sees a circle drawn on the floor.
If you mark one out using chalk, string, masking tape or flex, a cat will enter the circle and refuse to leave.
This may sound implausible, but dozens of photos of cats ‘stuck’ in just such circles have sprung up on the internet.
Professor Daniel Mills, one of Britain’s top experts in animal behaviour, says cats could be attracted to circles if they formed a barrier – for instance, if they were made of a curled-up draught excluder, tea towels or a row of socks.
‘Low barriers can give a cat a sense of security because the cat can cower down,’ says the Lincoln University academic.
‘If you take a cat to the vet and it is put in an unfamiliar cage, it will often sit in a litter tray if there is one inside the cage.’