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New research has shown why cats love boxes and squares. (Getty Images)
Laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, trash cans … have you ever wondered why your cat loves to curl up in closed spaces?
Even more puzzling, why do they choose to sit on flat square objects like folded blankets too?
Well, scientists have decided to dig deep into the strange behavior of our pet mogs, and their results are pretty interesting.
It turns out that cats love sitting in boxes so much that they often sit on a square painted on the floor – and even choose an optical illusion that looks like a square.
Researchers from the City University of New York and the School of Psychology and Public Health in Australia studied the behavior of cats and, in particular, whether our feline friends could perceive square optical illusions.
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The study’s authors asked cat owners to set up various shapes on their living room floors to see if they fascinated cats like regular boxes.
Some participants made a square of duct tape on the floor while others marked an optical illusion known as the Kanizsa Illusion. It is an arrangement of four ‘Pac-Man’ shapes that are positioned as if they were forming a square.
They also set up a Kanizsa control in which the Pac-Man shapes were inverted so that no optical illusion was created.
Participants were asked to record cases where their cats sat or stood within the markings for more than three seconds.
Observe: Unimpressed cat ignores toddlers hopping next to him on the sofa.
The results showed that a box doesn’t have to be 3D to attract a cat, as the pets will also snuggle into a glued square or an optical illusion of a square.
Of the 30 cats who completed all of the trials in the study, nine selected at least one of the illusions within the first five minutes of entering a room.
The cats chose the Kanizsa illusions as often as they did squares made from tape markers.
The story goes on
Far fewer chose to sit within the control patterns that did not form invisible squares.
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Cats love to sit in places. (Getty Images)
It turns out that the Kanizsa characters trick the cats’ brains into filling in the missing information.
“The cats in this study stood or sat in the kanizsa and square stimuli more frequently than in the kanizsa control. This demonstrated susceptibility to illusory contours and supported our hypothesis that cats treat an illusory square like a real square,” the researchers said .
Scientists believed that this behavior is generally driven by animal instinct. In particular, cats are drawn to tight spaces where they can feel more secure and hide and watch prey.
The results could also tell us something about visual perception.
“Many animals are designed to perform this type of perception,” said lead study author Gabriella Smith, a researcher at City University New York. “It probably has to do with navigating the area. Know when not to go into a tree or off a cliff. “
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The team has indicated that there are some limitations to the study, most notably the small sample size.
Of the original 561 cat owners who signed up, only 30 made it all the way through the experiment.
However, the results appear to reinforce previous research into cats’ susceptibility to optical illusions.
And for those obsessed with the #CatSquares viral hashtag that partially inspired research where social media users share pictures of their cats in squares, it provides quite an interesting context.