HomeCat BehavioranxietyWhy Do Cats Sit in Tape Squares?


Why Do Cats Sit in Tape Squares? — 2 Comments

  1. Dr. Nikko Tinbergen is a well-known European Ethologist who studied the behavior of a variety of animal species under more natural conditions than ordinarily found in psychological experimentation. In investigating the mating behavior of the stickleback fish, he noticed that males are attracted to gravid females whose bellies, swollen with eggs, take on a red color. He called the red belly a “sign stimulus.” Using a number of models, he noted that any object about the size of a female stickleback attracted male sticklebacks. Surprisingly, a disc that was red on the bottom and white on the top elicited a stronger response from the male than did a more accurately shaped model. He called this a “supernormal sign stimulus.” Tinbergen noted similar phenomena in a variety of animal species including birds.

    I would suspect that something similar is going on with cats and tape squares. Cats find/build nests where they do their whelping and rearing kittens. Cats seek and occupy small enclosures where they are only facing the world from a reduced angle. Cats are among numerous species that display what is called technically a positive thigmotaxis; that is, they seek to situate themselves where they are in contact with something that presses against their skin. It is possible that tape squares capture important sign stimulus characteristics of a preferred close space to a degree that elicits this behavior.

    Scientifically, as entertaining as it may be to do so, to answer this question it is not necessary to conjecture about how the cat feels. Cats naturally seek enclosed spaces. Their search is guided by the presence/absence of salient characteristics of enclosed spaces. It is safe to conclude that a tape square has those characteristics to a degree that causes some cats to approach and occupy it.

    Interesting behavior, isn’t it?

    • Thank you Paul for your excellent information on this. It is the sort of info I was looking for when I wrote it.

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