A cat siting in a circle marked out on the floor is very similar to a cat siting in a square marked out on the floor. I will suggest therefore that the same reason is behind both forms of cat behaviour.
It is said that cats even gravitate towards circles and squares marked on the floor, usually with tape, and then sit in it as if trapped.
As far as I know, no one has come up with a scientific reason yet. I have to contribute to the discussion. For me, I have an overwhelming feeling that this rather strange and apparently irrational cat behaviour is to do with feeling secure. It is about reassurance which also tells us that domestic cats live in a human world which is potentially or inherently a bit scary for them. They live amongst giants often in an unnatural landscape.
Sitting in a marked out square is one step from sitting and curling up inside a box. The box provides walls against which the cat can rest his/her body. This feels secure. It is a protected place. It is a den of sorts.
Squares and circles marked on the floor do not provide genuine security. There is no protection from the markings. But the cat feels the protection: it is a psychological condition. The square is what I’d describe as a ‘vestigial box’. It is a box without walls. It provides psychological reassurance.
The circle is one removed from a square and twice removed from an actual box but it is a clear, visual marking and the cat gains the same sort of psychological reassurance from seeing it. It looks a bit stupid to humans but humans do similar things to gain reassurance. Humans are fearful of just about everything or anything. Here are some things humans do which are illogical for reassurance:
- Tennis players – excellent tennis players like Rafael Nadal – walking back to the service line after changing ends while avoiding the lines on the court. This is to bring good luck.
- Pedestrians stepping on the centre of pavement slabs, once again avoiding the lines between the slabs.
- OCD is a form of illogical human behaviour which provides reassurance.
- Sportsmen and women in a range of sports have weird superstitions to improve their luck. They wear the same clothes or a golfer may use the same number on the ball and so on.
Many humans have illogical or impractical rituals but they help the person feel better.
Therefore domestic cats (and not all cats will sit inside a circle or square) who like sitting inside these markings are not necessarily behaving in a strange way. It is the mind that plays tricks. It should not be surprising that cats do this because they are often living in surroundings which force unnatural behaviour from them.
Do you have a theory? Is so please share it!