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We finally know why cats like to sit in boxes

Cats would not not the only ones at love the boxes. According to observations in zoos, large felines – including cougars, lions and tigers – would like sit and play with boxes of all sizes.

But especially, for our friends the cats, it is obvious to like to pile up in boxes or any other restricted space that they can find. But why do cats do this? Why do cats love boxes so much?

A comfort zone according to scientists

The behavior comes from a simple animal desiresaid Gabriella Smith, a doctoral candidate in comparative animal cognition at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.

“What we do know is that it’s a form of comfort. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The side pressure is comforting. »

Gabriella Smith

In a 2019 article published in the journal PLOS OneDutch scientists noted that the ability to hide was crucial for reduce stress level cats. The study was based on cats that had just arrived in one animal shelter. The researchers measured the cats’ stress level using the Cat-Stress-Score from their postureof their vocal behavior and their activity level. It was also found that when cats were deprived of shelterthey turned their litter box over to hide under.

An experience beyond the three-dimensional

In 2021, Ms. Smith conducted a citizen science study, that is, she asked people who live with cats to contribute to the experiment. The study, published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Scienceaimed to determine whether cats were willing to sit inside a outline Kanizsaa rectangle created by angles fixed to the ground.

“The 2D experience, in particular, makes it possible to study their visual cognition and the perception of boundaries. »

Gabriella Smith

Unlike a box, the Kanizsa outline has no walls, making it two-dimensional. In other words, cats love boxes so much that they even sit in 2D fake boxes. Theoretically, this behavior would be beneficial to cats to help them avoid dangerous situations.

“From an evolutionary perspective, it would make sense not to rush at objects, not to fall off a cliff, and to understand when two objects have different color intensity. »

Gabriella Smith

True ambush specialists

Another possible explanation that has not been scientifically tested is that cats like boxes because they are ambush predators. After all, as any cat owner can attest, house cats love to use boxes, corners and just about any raised surface to to hide before pouncing on an unsuspecting toy – or human –.

“My cat does the same thing when we play: he hides behind something so he can pounce. This all makes sense when you think of 3D enclosures, but even less is it clear why it translates to something 2D on the floor. »

Gabriella Smith


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