If you happen to have a cat in your life, you already realize they can squeeze themselves into some tiny places. In fact, it’s almost as if they prefer to find a perch when it is almost too small for their body.
Since we know that cats love sitting in boxes, the question was raised if they would still sit inside of a picture of a box if it were drawn on the floor. Researchers took this question and ran with it.
One researcher launched a citizen science project and attempted to trick felines by using the “Kanizsa contour illusion.”
If you are unfamiliar with that term, it is an illusion that has to do with how the eyes and the brain perceive the information we take in visually. It is an optical illusion in many ways.
In order to conduct the research, 6 different Kanizsa images were assigned to 30 cat owners at random. They put them on the floor for 30 days and observed how the cats in their home interacted with them. The cats’ owners were also asked to wear sunglasses so they didn’t influence the behavior of the cat in the way that they looked at them.
There were 4 Pac-Man shapes that formed the corners of the square. Seven cats in the study would sit inside of the square with the Pac-Man pointing in on a consistent basis and eight cats would sit in a square where the Pac-Men were pointing outward. Only two other cats sat inside of the square that was oddly shaped.
According to Science Direct, animal behaviorist, Gabriella Smith, shared: “To the best of our knowledge, this investigation is the first of its kind in three regards: a citizen science study of cat cognition; a formal examination into cats’ attraction to 2D rather than 3D enclosures; and study into cats’ susceptibility to illusory contours in an ecologically relevant paradigm.”
So pleased to announce that my paper, “If I Fits I Sits: A Citizen Science Investigation into Illusory Contour Susceptibility in Domestic Cats (Felis silvestris catus) has just been published in AABS! #IfIFitsISits #CatSquare #CitizenScience #CommunityScience pic.twitter.com/AXbDttnOGC
— Gabriella E. Smith M.A. (@Explanimals) May 4, 2021
It seems as if the eyes of felines are designed to detect an enclosed space. That is true, even if it only exists in a 2D environment. In other words, cats love boxes, whether they are cardboard boxes or a box drawn on the floor.