All cat owners can attest to a time they've found their furry feline cuddled up in an empty box lying around the house. In fact, it seems to be a cat's favorite hiding spot. But have you ever wondered why your cat has such an affinity for sitting in square-shaped enclaves? Well, we've done a little digging, and the answer is a bit more scientific than you might expect.
According to the Washington Post, the attraction is linked to a cat's childhood. Kittens seek warmth and protection by nestling in their mother's embrace, along with the rest of the litter. The tight space and close contact trigger the brain to release endorphins, allowing the cat to feel extremely peaceful.
So when you think about the cozy shelter a cardboard box provides, it's not hard to understand why your lovable furball might be eager to jump in. According to Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, felines receive the same boost of happiness—as well as the added warmth—they experience as infants as when they are cuddled up in a box. It's a sensation much like wrapping yourself in a blanket on a rainy afternoon. Sounds soothing, right?
While cats may be comforted by the small space of a cardboard box, there is another potential reason for this quirky habit. For ages, cats have been known as lithe and agile creatures that often hide in small spaces to sneak up on prey or avoid being attacked. This instinct is still innate in domestic cats today and could account for their unique choice of a safe space.
A Dutch study tested the effect boxes had on cats by giving some of the felines at a shelter boxes in their cages while depriving others of the luxury. Researchers found that the cats with boxes were better able to adjust to their new surroundings because they had a secure place to process the new sensations around them. In other words, the boxes made the cats feel less threatened by a change in environment.
So the next time you're considering what new toy will make your feline happy, remember that a simple cardboard box could, in fact, make him or her the most content of all.