Why is your cat obsessed with boxes?

Sometimes when I forget to bring a reusable bag to the market, I’m kindly given an empty produce box to tote my groceries home. This box invariably ends up on the kitchen floor to be put into our recycling bin. But not two minutes after it’s placed there, as if by magic, within it appears a sitting cat. Said cat may stay there for up to an hour if not ousted by another one of our domesticated feline occupants.

The box remains in the same spot by the door for nearly a week due to its popularity with half our household. So, why in the world is the box such a hit with the feline species?

To answer that question we need to explore the ancestry of the domestic house cat (Felis catus). The closest undomesticated relatives of the house cat are various species of wild cats, including the African wild cat (who Egyptians domesticated and worshiped). The closest
genetically linked relative, the Middle Eastern wild cat (Felis sylvestris), suggests cats were first domesticated in the Near East.
But why would humans choose to domesticate such sharp toothed and nailed, frighteningly expert killers in the first place?

Once we (humans) began settling instead of roaming the earth as hunters and gatherers, food stores such as grains became overrun with small scavengers like rats and mice. We soon recognized the hunting prowess demonstrated by the feline species and
decided that cats might just make an excellent addition in our home security department. Thus began the successful symbiotic relationship between the feline and human species; cats gained food and shelter, and humans a more hygienic and less rodent infested society.

Where does the box fit into this extremely brief history of feline domestication? Let’s imagine ourselves as cats for a moment…

As a cat, my predatory instincts identify the box as the perfect hunting blind—or location from which to launch an attack. It has four raised sides, allowing a 360 degree ground stalking radius with minimal detection. It’s clean and dry, so if I get bored planning an attack or waiting for unsuspecting prey—a fellow house cat, dog, or human ankle—I can curl up and take a cat nap while still hidden from the view of other ground dwellers. It doubles as a cat-scratcher, is sometimes satisfying to gnaw, and acts as an amusing human foot tripping device.

 

All in all, the box satisfies that killer instinct lurking behind your sweet little ball of fluff and is highly entertaining.

Do your cats box sit? Please tell us about them and share pictures!

Tadg in his hunting blind

Tadg in his hunting blind

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