A recent trend in social media has people fascinated: posting photos of cats sitting in squares taped on the floor. What is so compelling about this? Cats seem powerless to resist the urge to park their bodies directly in the square.
But why are cats all over the planet doing this?
It turns out that it’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces. They feel much safer and more secure. Instead of being in wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.
It is believed that close contact with a box’s interior simulates the closeness a cat felt as a kitten in cuddling with its mother and litter mates and releases endorphins – nature’s own morphine-like substances – causing pleasure and reducing stress.
The box may have no walls but simply be a representation of a box – say a taped-in square on the ground. This virtual box may provide some misplaced sense of security and comfort.
The cats-in-boxes issue was put to the test by Dutch researchers who gave boxes to shelter cats as retreats. According to the study, cats with boxes adapted to their new environment more quickly compared to a control group without boxes. The conclusion was that the cats with boxes were less stressed because they had a space to hunker down in.
Cats need boxes or other small spaces for environmental enrichment. Hidey-holes in elevated locations are even better. Being up high provides security and a better view of the world.
Without a real box, a square on the ground may be the next best thing for a cat, though it’s no substitute for the real thing. Whether a shoe box, shopping bag or a square on the ground, it somehow gives a cat a sense of security that open space just can’t provide.
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