Scientists Recruit People to Conduct Home Experiments to See Why Their Cats Like to Sit Inside of Boxes

Hank Green of SciShow (previously) explained how scientists turned to humans who live with cats in order to learn more about the distinctly feline need to sit in cardboard boxes or squares of tape. They also wanted to see how the felines would interpret implied squares, and the classic adage “if I fits I sits” comes into play.

Our cats do a lot of amusing things…. And though humans have been with their feline overlords for at least 10,000 years, we are still learning new things about them all the time. Like, …why do they like to sit in boxes and on things that just resemble boxes, like neatly folded t-shirts and laptop keyboards? Well, thanks to all the free time everyone had in the summer of 2020, scientists are much closer to finally solving at least that particular age-old mystery.

How Scientist Recruited Humans to Learn About if I fits I sits

These scientists understood that cats are very particular about their environments and those around them, so the experiments need to be done in a where the cat felt comfortable and relied upon their humans to provide accurate data. As it turns out, the cats appeared to interpret implied squares much in the way humans do.

The cat owners were taught how to present their pets with the stimulus, one of six randomized shapes to put on their floors, and how to avoid doing something that might affect the results, like interacting with the cat during the experiment. In other words, they were taught to be scientists! Now, because this study didn’t take place in a lab, the results are not perfect. But given, like, how cats are, at-home experiments like this one may be a better way to give scientists preliminary information about cat behavior in particular. … And as for the research itself, well, it seems to suggest that cats, like us, can be fooled by illusions.