Over the millennia, cats have been loved, hated, feared, and revered. But above all, they have just confused the hell out of us.
In celebration of World Cat Day, August 8, we set out to answer one of the great mysteries of the cat: Why do they like sitting in cardboard boxes, drawers, laundry baskets, shopping bags, washing machines, or any vaguely box-like vessel?
First of all, the “if it fits, I sits” philosophy could stem from a concern about safety and security. Considering that domestic cats can sleep upwards of 15 hours a day, it bodes well to have an isolated and sealed safe space to relax in. Of course, a domestic cat probably doesn’t have too many threats to consider, other than a rogue cucumber. However, their evolutionary cousins would be wary of birds of prey, jackals, and foxes, as well as rogue cucumbers.
Furthermore, the thermoneutral zone for domestic cats is 30-38°C (86-100.4°F), which is probably slightly higher than your thermostat at home. Curling up in an insulated box, therefore, could give them that vital few more degrees.
A study in 2014 wanted to find out whether providing shelter cats with boxes could help to reduce their stress levels. They gave half of the newly arriving cats a hiding box, while the other half were forced to endure a box-less stay. Over a 2-week period, they studied the behavior of the cats and found that those provided with a box adapted to their new environment considerably faster. This was shown by displaying relaxed body language, such as resting a lot, fully extended legs, dozy-looking eyes, and minimal meowing.