As always, cats doing funny things is big news online (it’s a wonderful world). A recent viral tweet demonstrated that if you use tape to outline a rectangle on the floor, your cat will come sit in the circle. Cat experts and pet owners have been weighing in on the phenomenon, and while amateur behavioral psychology of cats may not be the most reliable science, I felt this article from Daily Mail provided interesting insight about occupying space. Some hypotheses as to the cause of the cats’ behavior include feelings of safety, territorial attitude, and curiosity. The article explains that curiosity is the most scientifically supported idea. Feelings of safety and territorial attitude are ideas mostly put forth by non-experts, who may be projecting their own concepts about the meaning and function of space. After all, as humans we seek safety in enclosed spaces. We often treat space as territory marked by defined boundaries.
These are valued characteristics of a shelter as evident in today’s class discussion as well as in Parable of the Sower. The pervasive belief is that people inside the walls are safe. People inside their homes inside the walls are safer. The more enclosed your space is, the sounder you can sleep at night, and when you leave the boundary you’re vulnerable. However, Lauren insists that eventually a bomb will destroy the gate, obliterating the barrier between safety and danger. With such a weak barrier, the sense of security that residents feel by having a clearly defined enclosed space is false security. They may as well be a cat sitting in a tape square. Further reading may reveal whether there is value in their perceived security, even when it can not guarantee actual lasting security against outside forces.
To get back to cats in squares, I think that if they feel safety in those small spaces, then that is cozy and wonderful. House cats don’t have to worry about the dangers described in Butler’s work. Thank you to everyone who has ever conducted this experiment with their cat for making this blog post possible.