You’ve probably heard the jokes about cats being “gravity testers” (you know, a cat knocks something off a shelf to “test gravity”). Until now, this has merely been a source of amusement for humans. But recently, scientists in Japan found that cats actually know a thing or two about physics. Because cats are brilliant.
Researchers at Kyoto University videotaped 30 domestic cats while someone shook a can and then turned it upside down. I know, it sounds weird, but there’s a little more to it than that. Sometimes, the shaking was accompanied by a rattling noise; sometimes it was not. Sometimes an object fell out of the overturned can; sometimes no object fell out.
The cats spent more time looking at the can when there was a noise with it. They also spent more time looking when there was a noise but nothing came out of the can and when there was no noise but something did come out of the can.
It does mean something
I know, it still sounds weird. But the study shows that "cats use a causal-logical understanding of noise or sounds to predict the appearance of invisible objects,” one of the researchers said. That's science-speak for this:
If the can makes a sound, the cat expects there to be something inside it. If the can makes a sound but then there’s nothing in it, the cat knows something is wrong. Likewise if the can makes no sound but then something falls out of it. Those two situations are incongruent with the laws of physics. In other words, those situations are weird, and cats know it.
How do cats use this ability?
Basically, using sound to figure out where an unseen object (like a mouse) is can help cats hunt. The cat hears something rustling about and, even if the cat can’t see what’s making the sound, she knows something must be making it.
As I said earlier,
Cats. Are. Brilliant.
Also, gravity still works. This cat checked it out thoroughly:
SourceSpringer. "Cats seem to grasp the laws of physics: Cats' expectations are based on what they hear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160614114410.htm (accessed June 17, 2016).
Newton Gravity Law: Stock photo by Marek via Adobe Stock.
Cat in graduation hat: Stock photo by Chris Brignell via Adobe Stock.