You know the drill. You were in the kitchen and you left a cabinet open. You glance at the open door just in time to see the tip of your cat’s tail disappear into the darkness inside. “Come back here, kitty. Why do you want to go in there???”
Sure, we know that curiosity killed the cat, but is curiosity the only reason that cats sneak into open cabinets (or just about any opening that is normally off limits)? Let’s think about why cats are who they are because we are all defined by our genetics.
Micromanaging comes easy to your cat. He knows that he depends on resources, like territory, food, water, and shelter. He is also a bit of a control freak. A closed door is a mystery. He wonders what is behind that door. He thinks that he should patrol and control the area there. There could be a treasure trove behind that door just waiting for him to discover it. He will not know, unless he looks.
There could be another cat inside that is a challenge to his territory and resources. Because the door denies him access, the lure of knowing what is behind it becomes excessively important to your cat.
Your cat sees you open the cabinet doors and take things out/in. These elusive items are important enough to you that you hide them and deny him access. As his preferred associate, he feels that your value of the items (enough to hide them away) makes the items and the area where they are hidden attractive to him.
He is curious about what is behind the cabinet door. He knows that the items inside are valuable to you. He feels that the cabinets are within his territory and should be investigated and patrolled by him as the resident there. These tendencies seem like a matter of survival to a cat.
But also, there seems to be a cat tendency to want what they cannot have. My husband and I like to call our cat a “contrarian” because whatever is going on, he wants the opposite, even if only for an instant. If we open a doorway, he dashes through. Sometimes he turns immediately around and returns, especially if he sees that we are not joining him. But it seems to be his impulse to play the “opposite game”. If we are petting him, sometimes he does not want to be bothered. If we are ignoring him, it becomes paramount to him that we acknowledge his presence.
Perhaps we cannot truly explain why cats are like this, so we just accept this predisposition as a part of what makes them special.
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