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Why do cats love to hang out in boxes so much? It has something to do with being stone cold predators. And, a little anxiety.

Hosted by: Michael Aranda
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Michael: If you have a cat, or have ever spent much time on the Internet, you know that cats like to sit in boxes, or any other small container. Adorable, no? If it fits, they sits. But have you ever wondered why they do this?

Well, for one, it helps their anxiety. I know, considering that they sleep 12 hours a day, they don’t really seem like anxious animals. But cats experience stress like any other mammal. And when they’re sitting in a box, cats feel like they’re in a protected place where they can observe and hunt without worrying about being attacked. This makes sense, since cats are ambush predators, meaning they’re always looking to surprise their next target.

To better understand how boxes help cats calm down, one study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science observed a group of cats that had just arrived at a new animal shelter. New environments can be difficult for cats, so stress levels were pretty high. And scientists were able to rank the cat’s anxiety by looking at factors like their activity levels, and their ear and tail positions. This system is known as the Kessler and Turner Cat-Stress-Score.

Now, when some of the cats were given boxes to hide in, their stress levels went way down in only three days, and the effect was observed in nearly all of the animals with boxes. For comparison, the cats who didn’t get boxes eventually reached the same low level of stress, but it took them two weeks.

So, especially in high-stress situations, it’s important for cats to have an enclosed space to retreat to and feel protected. This is also true of large cats like tigers and jaguars, except instead of hiding in your latest Amazon box, they’ll hide in trees, caves, or other concealed spaces. But there’s another reason cats like boxes so much: apparently, our houses are too cold.

While you might enjoy a comfortable 24 degrees Celsius, cats prefer much warmer temperatures, between 30 and 36 degrees, according to a study by the National Research Council. By curling up in a cardboard box, cats can trap some of their body heat to make up a few of those degrees. That’s also why cats like basking in sunlight or curling up on top of your heating vent. So if you have a kitty at home, and you want to keep cat-stress at bay, just make sure they have a nice cozy box to sits in.

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