Monday, December 28, 2009 1:21 PM


This time of year provides cats with all kinds of entertainment (us, too!): Christmas trees to pull on, ribbons and bows to destroy, ornaments to bat and crumbled paper to play with. One of their favorite byproducts of the season, however, is the simple but elegant empty cardboard box. So many boxes, so little time! Next to Piles of Stuff, these beauties are one of cats' all time faves.

Except for the tiniest of their kind, empty boxes function as cat magnets. Almost immediately after removing its contents and tossing the empty carcass into a corner, the box becomes a source of feline curiosity. Usually, the dominant cat will show up first, investigating whether anything remains inside and, if so, whether or not it merits his attention. If it is gloriously empty, he will jump right in. Bear will chirp at me so that I can comment on how smart, cute, crazy, etc. he is. Then, I close the flaps loosely so that he can burst out and prove what an escape artist he is. Just to make sure that the other cats know that this is his box, he'll jump back in and either chase his tail or sit up straight and survey his domain (which usually includes other cats awaiting their turn with this new toy).

If there are multiple boxes, each one will need to be surveyed and tested in its turn. The cat-in-the-box game is one of the funniest for humans to watch. One cat "hides" inside the box and waits for another cat to investigate. Then, when the interloper gets really close, Surprise! Either a paw shoots out between the flaps to jab the other guy in the snoot, or an entire cat jumps out and scares the other one silly (well, they're pretty silly to start with). Sometimes you can join in the fun by closing the flaps down over a hunkered-down feline, then watch the antics as he pushes his way out as others try to keep him inside!

A couple of caveats: If your package came with those annoying styrofoam peanuts (happily, they are not that common anymore), be sure to take them all out before cats show up to check things out. Otherwise, you'll be spending the next hour or two picking them up! Also, don't fold the flaps down so that they are locked, as a cat may be able to stick his head in, but then be unable to pull it back out.
Happy Holidays! Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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