Our social feeds are full of images of cats snuggling in cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, and storage bins, but why do they do it? These close encounters create a swaddling experience that reminds cats of their kitten days snuggling with their mom and siblings. Swaddling releases happy hormones (like endorphins and oxytocin) and reduces stress, which helps cats stay calm and well-adjusted.
Dutch researchers tested this theory by giving shelter cats their own boxes to retreat to. According to the study, “Cats with boxes adapted to their new environment more quickly compared to a control group without boxes.” They concluded that the felines who had access to boxes were less stressed.
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Virtual box challenge!
“A virtual square or other geometric shape can attract your cat because of her poor close-up vision! Try it at home: Make a square out of duct tape on the floor and see if your kitty finds her way to the center and hangs out there. Circles are also cat-friendly. Place a hula-hoop or other item in a circle on the floor — try different sizes to see what your cat prefers!”
—Dr. Vickie Carmella, Director of Veterinary Scientific Affairs, Blue Buffalo
If your feline hasn’t taken over your sweater drawer or laundry basket, you can DIY a hideout for your cat. All you need is a cardboard box and an old blanket. Spread the blanket in the box, tape the box shut, and cut a cat-size hole in the side (the hole will make her feel safer because she can see who is coming and going). You can also buy a cat tree or cover shelves with soft material and stagger them at different heights on your wall. Make sure they’re made of quality materials and attached properly to the wall.
No matter what “safe space” your kitty likes best — and it may be that empty shoe box you keep meaning to recycle (!) — giving her a shelter of her very own is essential for her sense of security and happiness.