Any cat guardian knows how much felines love nestling in little spots around the home, like under beds, inside drawers, and often, in boxes, bags, or suitcases left out in the open. Somewhat recently, the internet did what the internet does, and shared with the world a phenomenon involving house cats and a few pieces of tape placed on the ground in the shapes of circles or squares. Often, the cat steps into the sectioned-off space and just… sits there, seemingly trapped by the nonexistent walls created by the outline of the shape. It may seem unreasonable, albeit amusing, to us, but cats stay put within these random shapes for a very good reason.
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A brief history of cats in small spaces
While the vision of a cat self-containing within a square or circle of tape is a relatively new sight, cats squeezing themselves into cramped quarters is a centuries-old practice. Before cats as we know them became domesticated, they slept in small, secluded dens outside, which is still practiced among wild cats, like bobcats and mountain lions, today. The small living quarters were sought out to offer both comfort and security by providing protection from potential predators and harsh weather conditions, and is likely one of the main elements that has contributed to cat survival as a species. Cats today often seek out tight spaces in an effort to feel secure, despite having considerably less dangerous predators to contend with than their ancestors, with the possible exception of feral cats and outdoor cats.
Why do cats climb into taped circles and squares?
So, if cats naturally seek out a small space to hide out in for safety, then why would a feline be drawn to step inside of tape squares, with no walls or protection to offer? According to The Conversation, climbing into these circles and squares are merely a matter of hard-wired habit, and may offer a momentary sense of security. Safe spaces to run to make for happier cats in general, and cats will often look to as many of them as possible, including things created more for our amusement than anything else, like taped shapes on the floor. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Illinois recommends providing as many dens in and around your home as possible for your cat, which can include store-bought cat dens and towers, cardboard boxes and paper bags, and even room dividers or towels for your cat to hide behind.
Cats love tight spaces
While some cats will climb "into" a circle or square drawn only with tape, cats prefer to hide out in spaces that they can truly take cover in and feel safe inside of. Crouching in these little makeshift dens not only offers four walls for hiding and warmth, it also allows for cats to enjoy uninterrupted rest, which cats inherited from their ancestors to conserve energy, according to VCA Hospitals. Often, these spots include under beds and couches, inside drawers, behind curtains, and in the corner of a closet or other dark space. Some cats like to perch up high for the ultimate vantage point, and may be found atop tall items in the home like the refrigerator, a large dresser, mantles, or the top shelf of a bookcase.
Generally, cats love a nice, dark space that they can crawl into and easily pounce out of if they ever need to escape a trigger, like loud noises, or if they simply crave some alone time. Because cats are naturally drawn toward den-like structures that are enclosed, the perceived confines of a circle or square on the ground may be enough to lure them inside for an investigation, even if that shape is made only out of tape.
To keep your cat happy, secure, and confident, it's recommended that you provide suitable hiding places around the house for him, like a cat den or even a box, which will help them meet their natural needs.