Cats May Use Laws of Physics to Predict their Prey’s Moves

Siamese cat playing with mouse.

According to a recent study, cats use an understanding of the basic laws of physics when they hunt.

BEACON TRANSCRIPTJapanese researchers found that our feline companions may have a deeper understanding of the law of physics than we may expect. For instance, they rely on noise clues and cause-and-effect associations to predict where their hidden prey may be heading.

Study authors believe that the animals developed the auditory skills as a response to their hunting environments which often don’t leave prey in plain sight.

A research team from Kyoto University planned to learn whether cats can predict where a hidden object may be based on noise clues. The experiment involved thirty cats which were involved in different scenarios.

Under the scenarios, scientists shook a container in front of a cat which either generated a noise or no noise at all. Researchers noted that in many scenarios cats only heard their prey not see it. As a result, they had to rely on other clues to detect it.

The team also found that cats seemed more interested in containers that were associated with a sound when shaken than in containers that weren’t associated with auditory clues. To confuse the cats, experimenters associated empty containers with a sound and containers with an object inside with no sound at all.

Apparently, cats could grasp that a noisy container meant that there was an object inside it, while a silent container meant that there was no object inside. Researchers believe that cats stared longer at objects associated with an auditory clue since they understand the basic laws of physics and cause-and-effect relationships.

Cats may use this basic knowledge to predict when a targeted object is about to appear from a site located out of their view. Cats looked longer at containers associated with a sound even though when turned upside down the containers produced no object.

Researchers believe that this may suggest that the small animals have a ‘rudimentary understanding of gravity,’ even though the team challenged this law of physics during experiments. Saho Takagi, co-author of the study believes that cats resort to a causal-logical relationship to infere whether their prey may appear.

As a follow-up, the team plans to conduct other cat experiments to see what regions of the brain get activated when they are exposed to these auditory stimuli. Brain scans should also reveal how much information the animals extract just from the stimuli and how much data they get from previous knowledge.
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