Credit: Gabriella Smith M.A.@Explanimals

Cats just seem to love to wedge themselves into boxes, crates, or other box-like objects.

Gabriella Smith, a recent master’s graduate from Hunter College in New York and animal cognition researcher found that this well-known phenomenon extends to shape outlines taped on the floor.

She found that cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. The findings might give us a little more insight into cat cognition.

Her investigative study published in Science Direct asks whether domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) are susceptible to sitting in enclosures that are illusory in nature.

Carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study randomly assigned citizen science participants booklets of six randomised, counterbalanced daily stimuli to print out, prepare, and place on the floor in pairs.

Owners observed and video recorded their cats’ behaviour with the stimuli and reported findings from home over the course of the six daily trials. This study ultimately reached over 500 pet cats and cat owners, and of those, 30 completed all of the study’s trials.

This study revealed that cats selected the illusion just as often as the square. It  seems cats,  like people, can be fooled by optical illusions.

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