If you couldn’t tell already (or if you haven’t seen The Lion in Your Living Room), house cats are truly tiny versions of big cats. They exhibit the same instincts and behaviors their panther relatives do, despite living in domesticated environments. Therefore, most of their weird tendencies can be explained by examining felines in the wild.
Case in point: the house cat’s penchant for cardboard boxes.
In a Utrecht University study, researchers tested the effect of cardboard boxes on 19 different cats who arrived at the same time to an animal shelter. Half (10) of the cats were given cardboard boxes in their new home and the other half (9) were not. Those with their own cardboard box to escape into acclimated to the unfamiliar environment much more easily than those without one. The box cats were also friendlier with humans (aka less stressed and generally happier).
You see, big cats in the wild would define self-care as “running away and hiding.” When they’re stressed, agitated or uncertain about a strange space, lions and tigers prefer solitary brooding sessions in confined spaces over group therapy or face-to-face confrontation. Sure, they’re curious animals, but they’re also very cautious and trust no one. They like knowing nothing can sneak up on them from behind while they’re hunting. So, think of a cardboard box as armor, fencing your kitty in from predators or surprises.
As for cats who just sit on flat cardboard or paper bags? Your guess is as good as ours. Theories range from the idea that cat simply enjoy the crinkly warmth of the material to the notion that they're actively marking their territory on your stuff. Either way, they’re wild at heart, so let them express it in your Amazon boxes before you recycle.