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11 December 2023

Why cats love to curl up inside boxes: Is it stress?

Cats are instinctively drawn to boxes because they offer security and shelter from predators while they stalk their prey. (File)

By Staff

Cats curling up inside boxes have often puzzled scientists, who have made several theories on the reason that make these little felines love boxes.

Scientists say they have not fully understood why cats have an affinity for boxes, but they have come up with a number of theories.

The most popular one is that cats are instinctively drawn to boxes because they offer security and shelter from predators while they stalk their prey.

But new research by Utrecht University in the Netherlands has found cats prefer boxes because the enclosed space makes them feel secure, acting as a coping mechanism when they feel stressed, according to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.

Veterinarian Claudia Vinke of Utrecht University in the Netherlands recently studied stress levels in shelter cats, the paper said.

“She discovered that cats which had boxes got used to their new surroundings faster than those who didn't because the boxes acted as a coping mechanism,” it said.

“Boxes also offer safe places for cats to take a nap. Felines can sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day, so seeking out a hidden place would help their chances of survival in the wild.”

The paper quoted Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. As saying: "Cats like boxes because they are cryptic animals… they like to hide.”

“Another theory is that cats love boxes because it helps them keep warm. Cats have a much higher tolerance to warmer temperatures than humans, and prefer being insulated from the cold…and a box gives them a place of safety and security,” Daily Mail said.

“But it's not just boxes that they love. Cats appear to try to fit into any enclosed space such as drawers, shopping bags and even kettles on the floor.”

Professor Daniel Mills, one of Britain's top experts in animal behaviour, said cats could be attracted to circles if they formed a barrier - for instance, if they were made of a curled-up draught excluder, tea towels or a row of socks.

“Low barriers can give a cat a sense of security because the cat can cower down. If you take a cat to the vet and it is put in an unfamiliar cage, it will often sit in a litter tray if there is one inside the cage.”