Humans are not the only creature capable of using science for real-life applications. Felines also have basic understanding of some elements of physics.
A new study provides evidence that cats also have rudimentary concept of the laws of physics and the principle of cause and effect. The animal's keen sense of hearing along with application of these concepts allows them to more easily hunt for prey.
Researchers in Japan wanted to know if cats can anticipate the presence of an invisible object in a box based on the sound produced by the container when it is shaken.
They also wanted to know if cats expect an object to fall from the box when the container is turned over so they conducted experiments involving 30 domestic cats.
Saho Takagi, from Kyoto University in Japan, and colleagues shook boxes in front of the cats with and without a rattling sound. They also flipped over the boxes, only some of which yielded a dropped object.
Of the scenarios the researchers employed in the experiment, the rattling boxes that yielded an object and the silent boxes that did not yield anything complied with physics. The rattling boxes that did not yield a falling object and silent boxes that yielded an object defied the laws of physics.
Takagi and colleagues observed that cats tend to stare longer at rattling boxes during the experiment, which suggest that they correctly anticipated the presence of an object based on the container's rattling sound.
The felines also stared longer when a turned over box yielded unexpected results that defy the laws of physics.
Takagi explained that these animals use a causal-logical understanding of noise or sounds when predicting the presence of invisible objects.
"The results suggest that cats used a causal-logical understanding of auditory stimuli to predict the appearance of invisible objects," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Animal Cognition on June 14.
The researchers said that the species' environment likely affect their ability to find out information based on the sound that they hear, which means that the animal's natural hunting style may favor an ability to infere based on sounds.
Cats often hunt at night, which makes their vision limited, so they often need to infer the location of their prey based on sounds alone.
"The ecology of cats' natural hunting style may favor the ability for inference on the basis of sounds," Takagi and colleagues added.