Cats use boxes for play and security. You see cats sleep in boxes or small spaces. It probably provides a sense of security much like a wildcat finding a nest in dense undergrowth or in a cave or a disused burrow. All of these places provide protection behind and above the cat. The first reason why cats like boxes is for a sense of security when sleeping or resting.
What about play? We see lots of cats playing in boxes. The famous Japanese cat that loves boxes comes to mind. His name is Maru.
In this video Maru dives into an open ended box or tube. This is a modified form of attack of small prey in a burrow.
I don't see anything definitive on this topic in books on cat behavior. It is really a YouTube thing or video thing. A newish area of cat behavior for us to discuss.
There is no doubt that it is fun for some cats to play in boxes. This is an individual cat preference. Not all cats like it. In fact, I think you will find that most cats don't have an urge to play in and with boxes. Maru made it fashionable!
It must stem from a cat's liking to poke and prod into small spaces for prey. For example a cat catching a mouse. Cats in boxes will prod outside the box sometimes or prod into the box. Both are unknown areas or areas that the cat can't see. I think it is therefore related to hunting prey and simply a derivation of that natural wild cat instinct in the human home as a domesticated cat converted to play. A lot or all of cat play is based on hunting instincts. The classic example is chasing a cat tease (a feather at the end of a stick).
Maru is a normal eared Scottish Fold and a tabby and white cat. His coat is classic tabby. Maru has a great human companion.
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