Shoeboxes, bathroom sinks, and even empty egg cartons are only a few of the weird places your cat might choose for a nap. As the adage goes, "If I fits I sits," and felines everywhere seem to view the smallest of boxes as a personal challenge. But why do cats like to sleep in small spaces, anyway, when there are much comfier beds and couches available? As it turns out, there are some powerful reasons your cat is so eager to curl up in the Amazon delivery box.
For starters, small spaces help your cat feel more comfortable in most any environment. "It’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer and more secure," wrote Nicholas Dodman, Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Pharmacology and Animal Behavior, in The Conversation. "Instead of being exposed to the clamor and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas." These small hiding spots give cats the sort of quiet, peaceful environment they prefer. They're also well hidden from potential dangers, even if the only perceived danger in your home is the loud vacuum cleaner.
In fact, such close quarters might remind cats of early kittenhood. After all, mother cats often seek out a calm, quiet, and relatively small space in which to have kittens, as noted in The Nest. This nesting instinct drives momma cats to give birth inside a box or closet, instead of the middle of the kitchen floor. It's possible grown cats retain this same fondness for tiny hiding places when it's time to rest. Small spaces are familiar and comforting in this way.
Warmth is another key concern for cats. Anyone who's lived with a feline knows cats are drawn to any source of warmth, whether that's a sunbeam or a pile of towels fresh from the dryer. There's a reason for this heat-seeking behavior, because cats are originally desert animals, after all. In fact, the most comfortable temperature for cats ranges between 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, or a good 20 degrees higher than what most people prefer, according to a 2006 study by the National Research Council, as reported by Wired. Curling up in a small space to sleep could help cats retain some of that crucial body heat. And some surfaces, such as corrugated cardboard, are particularly well insulated, as further noted in Wired. From your cat's perspective, that boring cardboard box might feel like the warmest napping spot available.
Lastly, the body-hugging space might offer your cat a feeling of comfort. "There might be something rewarding just about having that pressure surrounding their body," said veterinarian Dr. Karen van Haaften in Chewy. Curling up in a box might feel like being hugged to your cat. Really, tiny boxes or other small sleeping quarters could help cats feel warm, safe, and comforted. So while you might just see a bathroom sink, your cat sees a fantastic and luxurious space for sleep.
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