It’s Official: Cats Love Boxes

Science | By Eliana Tremblay | May 12, 2021

Cats are an endless well of enjoyment, when they are not being furry little storm clouds. A lifetime could be spent on the quirks of one cat, let alone what’s odd about the species’ behavior. Each is so complex that their lifespan scarcely offers the chance to scratch the surface.

And sometimes, cats can be unruly enough that you just need them to chill for five minutes in time-out, so that you can manage to form one thought without a little maniac bounding from wall to wall to wall to your keyboard. Could this small miracle be granted by God?

As it turns out, God did in fact confer this blessing on us, because just as you have noticed how manic your cat can often be, you have likely noted the peculiarity of it settling into a peaceful stasis in a box. Cats love boxes, and now science confirms it.

Study Conducted

The phenomenon of cats sitting in boxes warranted study to animal cognition scientist Gabriella Smith of Hunter College’s Thinking Dog Center in New York. She and her team wondered whether the innate desire of cats to sit in boxes was so strong that it would go as far as compelling them to do so in the mere suggestion of a box: four points visually marked out on the floor.

The scientists compiled a total of over 560 cat owners to partake in the study, and furnished them with paper cut-outs that in some cases were designed to create the illusion of a box and in others were not. Further offering assurances was the condition that cat owners wear sunglasses while conducting the experiment in their homes to remove the chance of the cat being influenced.


Ultimately, of the original group some thirty cat owners completed the experiment by setting the shapes up on the floor and then letting their cat in the room in order to see whether the cat sat in the square area for as long as three seconds in the first five minutes.

The results found that of the thirty, nine chose to sit in one spot designated by the experiment, with cats choosing nearly as many times to sit in fake squares as real ones, indicating that the illusion is quite effective on them and serves equally well to trigger their instinct to sit on or in square shapes. The scientists were left with an abundance of data on cat vision and sensitivity to contours to examine and suggest further areas of concentration in subsequent studies.

Future Study

To begin with, the team hopes to conduct the study again with a larger group completing it by reducing the timeframe being examined from the original six days that most did not finish in order to lend more credibility to their results. And, regardless of what accuracy is achieved by this particular study’s general parameters, Smith and her group would like to further investigate why cats partake in this behavior, as well as to expand the range of animals studied from domesticated house cats to wild big cats. Though evidence of the phenomenon has been collected by such groups as the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Florida, rigorous study has yet to be conducted.

And, quite obviously, study is sorely needed on why cats are freaked out by cucumbers or stunned by slices of cheese.



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