Cats sense of hearing allows them to understand basic concepts of physics
If you find the concept of physics and principle of cause and effect difficult then maybe go and ask your cat because a new study suggests cats have got it in the bag or box.
Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have been working with cats in previous studies and found they are able to predict the presence of an invisible object from the sound they hear. However, the researchers wanted to go a step further and find out if cats expected an object to fall out of a box when turned upside down, therefore understanding a concept of physics, and it seems they do.
The experiment led by Saho Takagi involved shaking boxes in front of thirty domesticated cats – some boxes were accompanied with a rattle sound while some were not. Some boxes were also flipped upside down to cause an object to fall out and some were empty.
The point of this set up is to show that only two of the scenarios make a connection that follows the law of physics – the boxes with a sound when shaken and an object falling out.
During the experiment they observed the cat’s reactions. Saho and colleagues found the cats stared longer at the rattling boxes indicating that they were expecting an object to fall out and suggesting they were correctly anticipating the event.
So what does this mean? Well it seems cats in particular use a causal-logical knowledge of sound and is likely to evolve from the animal’s environment where they use sounds to track down their prey. In terms of cats, they hunt mostly at night and therefore have limited vision dependent mainly on their hearing.
“Cats use a causal-logical understanding of noise or sounds to predict the appearance of invisible objects,” lead researcher, Saho Takagi explained.
Further research will take place to find out what cats ‘see’ when they hear noises and whether they are able to work out size and quantity of an object based on sound.
The findings were published in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition.