If you've spent any time around cats, you've probably noticed that they love to curl up in small, cozy boxes. Do you know why cats like to stay in the box?
There are two kinds of very informal theories as to why they like sitting in a box. One is that cats crave a comforting pressure on their bodies that reminds them of when they were kittens, surrounded by their littermates. Another is that cats have an attraction to potential hiding spots because of the way they ambush prey while hunting.
What you may not know is that they'll also go sit inside the two-dimensional outline of a square box on the floor or go sit inside a square shape created on the floor with masking tape. So the two theories are not perfect. Cats behave most normally when they are in natural settings, so an experiment is devised that lets volunteers test their own cats at home in a standardized way and then send in the results.
Participants received booklets with instructions on how to print out and cut up paper shapes that could be taped to the floor to create three options: the Kanizsa illusion, the actual outline of a square, and control that had the Pac-Man shapes facing outward. The volunteers were instructed to videotape their cats as they encountered these stimuli in short tests over six days, while the volunteers wore sunglasses to avoid inadvertently giving the cats any signals with their eyes. In the end, the researchers got complete data on 30 cats. Their results? That the cats chose to sit in the illusory square as often as they did the actual outline of a square - and more than the non-square arrangement.
This study indicates that, like humans, cats are susceptible to a variety of visual illusions, for example, has shown that cats will engage in hunting behavior when they see illusory motion such as the rotating snake's illusion. Cats are so short and close to the ground, they might have seen the shapes on the floor from an angle that made the cats less likely to perceive the illusion of the square in the same way that much taller people do. And this may cause the cat to mistake the illusory square for actual.
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