Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?

 

Cat behavior is something so many people wonder about. Cats can often seem like they’re creatures from another world, as they don’t communicate with us in as obvious a way as dogs do. The good news is, cat behavior is hardly a mystery. Animal behaviorists have been studying it for years, and have answers to many of our most pressing questions. For instance, why do cats like boxes so much? Why do they headbutt us? Let’s find out!

 

How Do We Study Cat Behavior?

Before we answer some common cat behavior questions, let’s start by discussing how exactly we study cat behavior in the first place.

It’s important to note that, much like their stereotypes of being aloof and cold, cats have definitely been discriminated against when it comes to their presence in animal behavior studies. Why exactly that happens isn’t clear (it likely has to do with how they behave in social situations), but there are far more studies on dogs than there are on cats. 

Much of the focus on cat behavior has looked at a few different, specific areas - perception, object permanence, physical causality, quantity discrimination, and social cognition. Luckily for us, many animal behaviorists choose to focus solely on cat behaviors. They’ve dedicated their lives to studying cats and trying to determine why they do so many of their most common, head scratching behaviors. 

Most of the time, these studies are observational and include evolutionary and biological research as well.


Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?

Much like children, cats love a cardboard box. If there is one anywhere in the house, your cat will likely find it and make it their bed (in between chewing it up, of course). But why do they like them so much, and why do they seem to have radar for finding them?

Like much of cat behavior, the answer has to do with instinct. In nature, small, confined spaces like that would provide them with both a place to hide from any predators that may want to harm them, as well as a place that would allow them to stalk their prey more efficiently. Basically, boxes represent a place of safety and comfort, one that appeals to them on an instinctual, biological level. There isn’t too much more to it than that! We love a simple answer.


Why Do Cats Like to Lick Plastic Bags?

As much as we like to think of our cats as the kings and queens of the castle, they will occasionally do some super weird things (like licking plastic bags obsessively) that make us question their “regal” nature. 

Unlike many, seemingly unexplainable cat behaviors, the answer to that question doesn’t actually have a biological component. It’s more likely related to a specific condition known as “pica.” 

Pica, or the condition when animals (or humans) eat non-food items, is essentially an eating disorder. It is also commonly seen with wool sucking, or compulsively licking other items like shoelaces or shower curtains. Although odd, it’s not dangerous unless your cat is actually swallowing these items, which can lead to intestinal blockages and obstructions that can be potentially fatal.


Why Do Cats Get the Zoomies?

Unless you’ve spent a lot of time with cats, you probably aren’t aware that they can get the zoomies just like dogs do. But cats are just as prone to those random, crazy bouts of energy that have them running at full speed through the house (usually in the middle of the night, since cats are nocturnal). 

One difference between dog and cat zoomies though is that cat zoomies usually include plenty of vocalization. While dogs have silent zoomies, cats like to “scream meow” while tearing around the house like a football player running drills.

In addition, cat zoomies have a slightly different evolutionary background. Much of it has to do with being separated from their mothers too early, which leads to plenty of abnormal behaviors that can be attributed to the fact that they never really learned how to “cat” appropriately. However, part of natural cat behavior has to do with a pattern of sleep followed by “bursts” of energy usually used to hunt. Since most of our sweet babies aren’t having to hunt for their food, those energy bursts turn into what we see as unexplainable, midnight zoomies.

 

Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me?

If you have a cat, you’ve likely been headbutted by them. It can sometimes feel a little aggressive and seem to come out of nowhere, without any clear reasoning behind it. However, it’s actually a good thing!

Cat headbutting is basically the same as getting a fistbump from your bro. Often known as head “bunting,” is actually a way that cats exchange scents with each other to create a communal “safe space” with everyone’s scents intermingled. It’s different from the way that cats rub their cheeks on you, which is a territory marking behavior. 

When your cat head bunts you, they are essentially saying that you are family. They want you to smell like them because they love and accept you, and maybe think you are a little bit stinky and want to help. Head bunting is normally done by the most dominant cat in the household, because they are the one who is able to invite others into the group (according to the social hierarchy). It’s high praise, and is a good sign that you have a pretty strong bond with your cat. 


Why Does My Cat Make That Weird Noise At Birds?

We get so used to our cats normal noises that anything strange or out of the ordinary can really take us by surprise. This is often the case the first time an owner hears their cat attempting to “talk” to birds.

This noise has been called many things - clacking, chattering, chirping - but they all refer to the same thing. Your cat is looking out of the window at birds, staring intently with their body on alert and ready to go. Their mouth is slightly open, seeming to “vibrate,” as they make a strange noise that can sound exactly like the bird they are stalking. 

There are a few schools of thought on where this noise actually comes from and what it means. Some cat behaviorists believe it is predatory, a way of practicing their “kill” bite before having to do it in real life. Others think it relates to the frustration they feel at not being able to get out there and kill it. There are even behaviorists that believe that they really are trying to mimic the bird, which may trick them into feeling safe which gives the cat an edge when on the attack. Without being able to ask out cats, we’ll never know for sure, but it’s likely a combination of all of those theories. 

But one thing is for sure… it is a very unique, special noise that is fun to hear and hilarious to watch. 

Cat behavior may seem weird and unexplainable, but much of those behaviors have been the subject of enough research that we now know what causes them. Remembering that our cats are animals, and attributing less human thoughts to them, can help us not only understand but also love and bond with our pets a lot more. In the end, even though we may not be able to relate to our cats on an animal level, we can at least comprehend why they may do them.


Sources:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/not-bad-science/what-s-going-on-in-your-cat-s-head/

https://www.livescience.com/45461-why-do-cats-like-boxes.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/10/animals-cats-behavior-pets/ 

   

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