It was only a matter of time until I would mention my cat here again. Today I made her a cardboard scratching pad which she loves.1 Unsurprisingly, large stretches of her day are also spent sitting in a cardboard box. And large swathes of YouTube videos will testify that she is not alone in this.
This got me thinking that there must be some biological reason why cats love boxes so much, so I went looking.
It turns out there are a few likely reasons why a cardboard box wins over almost any other place on the floor ever:
- Ambush. In the wild, cats stalk their prey and ambush it. A box – particularly if it has some holes cut out for the cat to peek through – is an excellent place to hide and observe, until one is ready to pounce.
- Retreat. Cats hide. This is their number one coping mechanism for basically any problem, so they will gladly use the safety of the four walls of a box to chill out until they feel satisfactorily de-stressed. Meanwhile it is also a nice location to sit in and watch the world go by. The perceived safety is larger than being in the middle of the room with no walls around.
- Insulation. A cat’s comfortable temperature is in the high twenties of Celsius; an excellent insulation material, cardboard is nicer to sit on than the cold floor, and if the box is really small, the added insulation of the box walls means a pretty cosy sleeping spot.
To be honest, scientific references for all this are pretty thin on the ground, but there is one study from The Netherlands which has shown that cats who arrived in a shelter environment, adapted more quickly and were less stressed when they were provided with cardboard hiding boxes.
So in general, having a cardboard box out for your cat is a great idea. It’s not like the floor is not already littered with all kinds of toys, scrunched up paper balls, Pringles lids2 and so on.
Bonus: It’s not just domestic cats, by the way.