There isn’t a cat lover in the world who hasn’t spent at least €40 on a fluffy bed for their beloved cat. They then find that they gingerly sniff it before jumping into the cardboard box you just left on the kitchen table. The curiosity of a delivery, Christmas or birthday present will instinctively entice any feline into a room at a seconds notice to inspect the latest version on offer as a replacement for the mauled remanence of the box from last month’s shopping trip. This odd feline obsession is thought to link back hundreds of years to their wild animal instinct times where hiding places were essential to hunt and stalk prey. Any structure that could hide them from the line of sight of pray meant they could jump out to strategically attack before returning again to hide in wait for the next opportunity.
Another popular suggestion is that a felines perfect temperature preference is around 86 – 97 degrees, yet the average house is generally lower at a more human habitable 72 degrees (although I’m with the cats on this one!). So when your cat appears from nowhere and sits on the newspaper that you just sat down to read, or starts padding at the clean washing from the tumble dryer to get comfy, what she is really telling you is that you need to turn up the heat! This might also give a hint as to why so many cats barely step a paw outside the back door in the mornings to be sitting at the front window by the time you turn around, giving an urgent muffled ‘meow’ through the glass to let her in as quickly as possible. If your cat is of the long-haired variety or has thyroid issues, however, they are generally not so fond of the heat, although please don’t be rushing the nearest vet if your cat doesn’t have a liking for sitting on the newspaper or recipe you are trying to follow, she might just be the exception.
A study in a Dutch animal shelter carried out a simple experiment on a number of cats by separating them into two groups and offering half the group a box and no box to the other half. It was found that the half that had a box on offer displayed fewer stress behaviors than those who were not given the pleasure of a bit of cardboard. Thought to perhaps mimic the comfort of the mother when a kitten, the confinement of a cardboard box apparently helps to release endorphins which reduce stress and creates a feeling of pleasure. However, as we see all too frequently, kittens are often not afforded this luxury by being separated from their mother far too early often for monetary gains while still ‘cute’ or because they are the result of un-neutered females and therefore unwanted. Yet regardless of the reason, I would hedge a bet that all cats would still be partial to sitting in the old reliable box.
The cardboard box, therefore, is not only a great hiding place but also a nice cozy heat hugging isolated location. This is to spend the majority of the 20 hours a day sleeping that most cats will spend ‘re-charging’ for the 4 hours spent begging for food like she hasn’t been fed for six months. But let’s not get to scientific, perhaps it’s just all for fun! Maybe the feeling of sinking those sharp claws into the fresh new box is just too much to resist, even more so than the brand new Cath Kidston bag you left hanging off the chair. God forbid that mammoth scratching post that occupies the corner of the kitchen might have even seen the sight of a claw in comparison to the kid’s school backpacks the minute they arrive in the door from school. Or maybe it’s just her marking her territory by leaving her scent to ensure it’s now hers? Or maybe she just knows she’ll get away with it as you groan under your breath, picking her up for a cuddle and nestling your face into that adorable purring cheek. I know which theory I’m going with!
Despite all of this, our beloved furballs give us much pleasure and several Instagram opportunities from this amusingly cute phenomenon. And let’s face it, next time your in that pet store and you stroke the soft fake fur paw-printed €40 cat bed, remember that your money is better spent on a new spider plant that now has all its ends chewed, Or better still, a new white jumper to replace the one you accidentally left on the end of the bed which now has a layer of black and white fur coupled with a dirty paw print on it.