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Cats are superior creatures. Small in stature but large in ego, their dominance is all about confidence. Their overwhelming neurotic tendencies keep them from falling subject to the ferocious world around them, from cucumbers and puppies to vacuums and curious kids. They jump high, get low, outrun and out-hide the peasants that surround them.

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They refuse to become prisoners to their owners, only answering their calls at the sound of food being dropped into their bowl, or for a good pet (on their terms, of course).

Now, there’s something even more mesmerizing about these mysterious, lion-like lovers for us to consider. A team of scientists from Kyoto University explained in the journal Animal Cognition that we have yet to really understand the full scope of cats’ incredible intellect. The researchers discovered that, based on how cats seem to understand that rattling boxes have hidden objects inside them, they may be acutely aware of some of the laws of physics.

They Understand Specific Physics

While it’s highly doubtful that they know or even care about the discovery of gravitational waves, the researchers think that cats may be able to understand “cause and effect,” the idea that a noise or motion has occurred as a result of a previous action. This essentially means that cats can predict the existence of invisible objects based on what they are capable of hearing. This may even somewhat explain why they can bring home more vermin than you know what to do with.

“This study may be viewed as evidence for cats having a rudimentary understanding of gravity,” write the authors in the journal.

For the study, 30 domestic cats were observed while an experimenter stood in front of them, shaking a box that either contained an object or did not. The box was then inverted, with the cat watching as an object either fell out onto the floor or nothing happened at all. Before the box was inverted, it was shaken. If it had an object inside, it rattled. If not, it didn’t.

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“We have found no [previous] study specifically testing knowledge of this fundamental physical rule in cats,” the researchers noted.

They Tried To Trick The Cats

In an attempt to trick half of the cats, sometimes the box was left empty, but the researchers played a rattling sound from within the box anyway. Other times, when there was an object inside, the researchers jiggled it around, but were careful to make sure there was no rattling sound before turning the box over and letting the object come out.

What the researchers found was that the cats stared at the box for longer periods of time when it made rattling noises, leading them to believe the cat was trying to understand the existence of the hidden object. They were aware that the ratting was the “effect” that was “caused” by the object moving around.

When a rattling noise wasn’t followed by an object, or when an object was followed by no rattling noise, the cats stared at the box for ages, mentally processing how their understanding of cause and effect was not apparently applicable.

As if cat lovers needed another reason to boast about their beloved felines, this one will surely intrigue admirers and skeptics alike.


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