Present a cat with a box and it is surely going to jump right into it and snuggle up. Now, a recent study is here to show why pet felines find enclosed spaces so enticing. Researchers of animal cognition at the Alex Foundation and Thinking Dog Center at Hunter College, Gabriella Smith and Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiereab along with Philippe A. Chouinard from School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Australia, recently published a paper titled, ‘If I fits I sits: A citizen science investigation into illusory contour susceptibility in domestic cats’.
Based on their experiment, the paper showed that cats selected the Kanizsa illusion just as often as the square and more often than the control, indicating that domestic felines may treat the subjective Kanizsa contours as they treat the real contours. Over 500 pet cats and their owners participated in this experiment, out of which 30 completed all of the study’s trials. Researchers mentioned that nine cat subjects selected at least one stimulus by sitting within the contours both illusory or otherwise with all limbs for at least three seconds.
Smith and her fellow researchers were interested in finding out whether pet felines would instinctively spring for the faux squares. Out of 30 cats, most expressed no interest in any floor shapes at all, both illusory and real. But those cats who did were about as likely to sit on a Kanizsa square as a definitively outlined one.
Even before this research, #CatSquare was quite prevalent on social media back in 2017 when netizens posted pictures of how pet cats would go and place themselves in any random area of the house that has been marked as a square. Hence, it is not just cardboard boxes, sinks, or suitcases where your pet cat would jump right in, but anything that remotely resembles an enclosed space.
In earlier research from 2014, scientists found that shelter cats who were given a hiding box were able to recover faster in their new environment compared to felines without a hiding box, as measured by their Cat Stress Score.