Do you sometimes wonder if your cat is secretly plotting world domination? Well, it turns out that our feline companions might be a lot smarter than they've previously been given credit for. They might even be able to help you with your physics homework.
According to a recent report from researchers out of Kyoto University, apparently cats comprehend some of the basic laws of physics, such as gravity, reports The Washington Post. Given that cats always seem to land on their feet, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised.
The research is based on a cognitive skills experiment that tested whether cats could infer the existence of rattling objects inside of containers that are being shaken. The cats not only seemed to be able to make the proper inference, but they exhibited behavioral confusion when the correct inference proved to be false, such as when researchers attempted to fool the kitties with absurd scenarios, such as containers that rattle but don't contain any objects.
“This study may be viewed as evidence for cats’ having a rudimentary understanding of gravity,” wrote the researchers.
Aside from seeming to comprehend gravity, the cats also seemed to have an understanding of the relationship between cause and effect, since they exhibited expectations about the sorts of sounds that rattled containers with objects inside ought to make.
Of course, any cat owner who has ever learned to pique their pet's curiosity by scratching underneath a rug or blanket has probably witnessed the results of this experiment themselves. Cats can infer the existence of unseen objects from auditory cues alone.
It's also fairly easy to guess why cats might find this skill particularly useful while hunting. A cat needs to be able to track the movements of burrowing prey, such as rodents or insects. So is this study really telling us something we didn't already know about our feline friends?
“We still have a long way to go until we have an inclusive body of research on cat cognition,” a trio of Oregon State University scientists wrote in a 2015 review of feline behavioral science. “Many questions are still largely unexplored.”
In other words, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that cats have a basic understanding of physics, but this research at least begins to quantify the extent of this understanding. It's not as if any of this means your cat is quietly ruminating about the possible existence of gravitational waves or something.
Then again, perhaps their frequent, sleepy yawns are really just dismissive scoffs at our menial human comprehension of the Higgs boson. No doubt, more research will be needed to know for sure.