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Why Cats Like Boxes So Much

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Cats like to hide.  That is because they employ something called crypsis to keep themselves safe and sound.  A cryptic animal, like a cat, uses its anatomy and behavior to hide from anything which might predate them. It is different from camouflage as this can also be employed by predators and is used by many animals, including big cats, to more effectively attack prey.  A house cat uses its natural flexibility to hide in places a predator might not consider. A box is just that. Inside it, a cat feels invisible, and that is exactly how he likes to feel.

Perhaps these exceptions don't quite prove the rule, but let's go with it.

A box offers a confined space where your average moggy can feel safe and secure.  There is no such thing as a claustrophobic cat, just the opposite in fact. Once they are in the box they cannot be approached from behind or from the sides.  Anything or anyone must approach the cat directly in its field of vision.  It gives them a sense of security and helps them to relax.  Cats feel most secure when they are kings of all they survey. Their size precludes this so they go for the next best option.

In the wild, most cats would have lived in holes in the ground.  As birds of prey would have been one of their occasional predators this would have ensured that they could not be seen from above. Strange to think that raptors, which cats so enjoy teasing to the point of evisceration, might also hunt them. Today, house cats being killed by birds is a rare occurrence: it is far more likely to be an animal like a coyote.

Of course, there is another reason why cats enjoy sitting in boxes.  They like to simply watch the world go by, to enjoy the sight of their human slaves doing their daily chores while they are waited on hand and foot.  There is, after all, nothing more satisfying than watching others work while you lie back and do nothing.  As you can see from the photographs, the size of the box hardly seems relevant to a cat.  It’s. Just. Box. And there they will stay.

Yet they will spring in to action if something passes by which they is killable, maulable or play-withable. Boxes are ideal for the laziest type of stalking on the planet – one which consists of remaining completely still until something passes by.

Then they will attack, joyous little ninja psychopaths that they are.

Once this bores them they can head back to the security of the box.  There they can pursue their favorite activity – sleeping.  Given that cats must sleep up to twenty hours a day, it’s important for them to feel protected by their immediate environment.

Sometimes the environment might not ultimately offer too much protection. Slow-cooked cat, anyone?

One thing which defies explanation – almost – is the fact that cats will sit in boxes which expose their heads and backs to potential predators.  Not very secure, really. It could be that the walls of the box give them something they can peer over then pop back down out of sight with speed.  The sides of the box are almost like the walls of a castle – safety lies within.  When in the wild this box could be replaced by fallen branches: perhaps.

One thing is for sure. Any number of people who share their homes with cats have complained that their feline friend has declined to even show the slightest interest in the expensive cat basket they have bought.  Yet when presented with the packaging that was used to hold the basket they will spring in to it with alacrity and remain there until their human host is resigned to having it lying around the house until it falls apart.

If you live with a cat, just give up.  Submit to the box. You could even make a deluxe version with some small effort.

And it won’t last long.  Cardboard is perfect scratching material and helps a cat to mark out its territory.  The marks on the box are far from an accidental by-product of the scratching process: this is territory marking.  Any other cat seeing these marks will know that it is venturing on terrain owned by another at its own risk.

Schrödinger’s cat may perhaps have been placed in a sealed box, but that is just a perhaps.  It is far more likely that Mr Schrödinger’s pussycat got in of its own accord.  For a cat a box isn’t as much a thought experiment as a lifestyle choice.

First Image Credit Ehsan

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