Why do cats like boxes? Animal experts decode obsession

Cats are not strangers cardboard boxes, as any feline owner knows. But what about those flimsy square crates that drive our kittens crazy?

Although we can’t say for sure, pet experts and feline scientists have begun to unravel the mysteries of the cat mind in recent years.

“If your cat has attached itself to a cardboard box, why deny it this pleasure?” Molly DeVoss, a certified feline training specialist who runs the nonprofit organization Cat Behavior Solutions, says Reverse.

Why does my cat like to sit in boxes?

One of the reasons why cats may like being in cardboard boxes: it serves as an object for them to rub against and mark their scent with their pheromones. Getty

Cats can be attracted to cardboard boxes for many reasons, but a common explanation is the novelty factor. Cardboard boxes may contain smells or an interesting texture to rub against.

“Cats are very sensitive to changes in their home, and many cats like to investigate something different,” says Mikel Delgado. Reverse. Delgado is a cat expert at Feline Minds.

There’s also a more complex evolutionary reason why cardboard boxes are like catnip to your pet: they provide a sense of security from predators and a good vantage point to stalk potential prey – or hanging toys in the modern world.

“Cats are both predators and prey. Hiding in something like a cardboard box can prevent them from being detected by their prey until they are ready to pounce,” says Certified Veterinary Behaviorist Katherine Pankratz. Reverse.

“Chewing cardboard can be simply because it’s fun and entertaining”

Chyrle Bonk, veterinarian at PetKeen, says Reverse that cats love the small, confined nature of the boxes, which “helps them feel safe from predators or other creepy things in their environment”.

DeVoss says cats can remember toys you’ve previously tossed into empty boxes, so any new box serves as an invitation to play.

“I also wonder if the cat is trying to scent the box by lying in it and rubbing on it; cats are more comfortable when everything in their environment smells like them,” adds DeVoss.

Cardboard boxes are also insulating, so cats may find them particularly useful for keeping warm.

Surprisingly, there is scientific data on cats and boxes. A 2014 study looked at what happens when you give shelter cats boxes to hide in. According to the data, cats that received the boxes were less stressed than those that didn’t, confirming that “hiding the boxes” provides some sense of stress reduction in new environments.

A more recent article delved into the cat’s obsession with the closed, square shape of objects like cardboard boxes, laundry baskets, and simple outlines on the floor. The researchers confirmed that cats have “illusory contour sensitivity,” meaning they perceive contours that don’t exist in reality. In experiments, cats sat on an illusion-shaped square, known as the Kanizsa square, as often as a real square.

Although the study confirms that cats are, at some evolutionary level, attracted to sitting in boxes, it does not offer to explain why this behavior occurs.

“My study simply exploited cats’ attraction to sitting in enclosed spaces and didn’t really illuminate Why they do,” Gabriella E. Smith, currently a PhD student. Comparative cognition candidate at the Messerli Research Institute, tells Reverse.

Why does my cat chew cardboard?

Cats may enjoy chewing on the unique texture of cardboard. Getty

Some cats go beyond sitting in the box and chew or eat the box as well. There can be a number of reasons why your cat chews on cardboard.

Cats can have a compulsive tendency to chew on inedible objects – a phenomenon known as “pica”. Pankratz says pica is a concern when it comes to boxes because the cardboard could be dangerous if consumed in “significant quantities.”

DeVoss says pica is “relatively rare,” but adds that eating cardboard boxes could be a warning sign that you should talk to your vet.

But there’s also a simpler explanation: your pet loves the wavy texture on the edge of the boxes. The texture is soft and can be easier for cats to puncture than other objects, giving them easy chewing and scratching satisfaction.

“Chewing cardboard may just be because it’s fun and entertaining,” says Bonk, though she adds that it could also be a way for cats to relieve sore gums from dental disease, so it’s possible -be time to give your cat a dental check-up. .

DeVoss says your pet may also chew cardboard as part of “attention seeking” behavior — in other words, to trick you into paying attention.

Other factors include boredom and stress. Delgado suggests talking to a veterinarian if you suspect environmental factors could be stressing your pet.

Finally, if you notice your cat chewing on the flaps or sides of the box, DeVoss says this could be how your pet’s scent marks the box since saliva contains pheromones. Once you’ve identified why your cat is chewing on the cardboard box, you can work to find solutions.

“Set your cat up for success by keeping cardboard boxes well out of the way to avoid temptation for your cat, and find another way to meet that need,” says Pankratz.

Delgado recommends offering your cat other activities to keep her busy and things to chew on, including:

  • Bird feeders to watch out for near a window
  • Climbing and scratching objects
  • food puzzles
  • Catnip
  • chew toys
  • Dental kibbles

How can I get my cat to stop playing with the box?

The boxes attract cats’ evolutionary “predator and prey” responses, providing them with a safe space to stalk and hide. Getty

At some point, you’ll probably want to recycle the box so it doesn’t clutter up your home. So what can you do if your cat has an unusual attachment to the trash can?

“If you have to throw out a box that your cat has become attached to, start by putting other items in the box first,” says Bonk.

Pankratz agrees, adding that you should provide alternative options and let your cat “vote” based on which item they spend the most time enjoying.

These items might include a soft blanket, toy, catnip, towel that smells like cats, or a bed that your pet finds comforting. Once your pet has adjusted to the new object, try moving it to a place outside the box that is also closed, so your cat feels safe. If you are sure your cat is fine, you can dispose of the box.

But if your cat stays hidden in the box because he’s afraid of something, Pankratz says it’s better to “address the reason for his fear” than trying to get him out of the box.

Other experts like Delgado say it might be harder than you think to get your cat to sit elsewhere. Instead, you can try offering multiple boxes to your cat at once. This way, as your pet explores and becomes familiar with a new box, you can recycle the old one. Many cats like to have several sleeping options, which they will alternate depending on the movement of the sun and the time of year.

“If they like cardboard best, then why not let them enjoy it?” Delgado asks.

De Voss agrees: “I leave the boxes outside as long as my cat seems interested in them.”