File it under weird things cats do! Last month, a viral tweet inspired thousands of people to engage in some rather weird behavior themselves: taping a square to the floor and seeing if their cat would sit in it. Evidently, a lot of feline friends ended up sitting in these pretend-boxes their people made, according to the Washington Post. But why? Why do cats love boxes—even outlines of boxes?
Well, why do cats do anything they do? People have been trying to figure that out for the past 4,000 years. Feline behavioral scientists say that cats love boxes because seeking out confined spaces is instinctual in the larger species from which the domesticated cats evolved. Out in the wild, confined spaces allow felines to hide from predators and stalk their prey, according to Live Science. A study out of Utrecht University in the Netherlands showed that hiding in boxes significantly reduces kitty stress levels and can even make cats more willing to interact with humans overall. Another study suggests that they may be drawn to boxes because they are more comfortable at a higher temperature than most of us keep our homes. Thus, the box provides them with a way to stay warm by conserving body heat.
One Reddit user posited that the ancient Egyptians bred what we now know as the domesticated cat to have a natural preference for sitting in boxes because it helped to keep their cherished pets from wandering. “By the hundredth generation or so, even the outline of a box was enough…and that trait is still present in them to this day,” this Redditor goes on to hypothesize. It’s not exactly scientific. But it could help to explain why a cat would be drawn to a tape-on-the-floor box. On the other hand, take a look at this photo. This feline doesn’t look the least bit fooled.
Wish you had a secret cat decoder? Sorry. But this guide to the 17 things your cat would love to tell you comes pretty close.