Researchers have determined that cats, or at least the ones analyzed in the study, understand and commonly use the basic knowledge of physics and sound. The advantage could be used to find hidden preys in the wild, the team said.
Previous papers related to cats’ behavior had established that the animals predict the presence of invisible objects based on what the were able to hear. For a new perspective, the team from Kyoto University in Japan wanted to determine if cats use a causal rule to infer if a container holds and object, based on whether it is shaken along with a sound or not, as reported by Science Daily.
It was also in the researchers’ interest to establish if the animals expect an object to fall or not once the container is turned over, according to the paper led by Saho Takagi and published in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition.
“Cats use a causal-logical understanding of noise or sounds to predict the appearance of invisible objects,” Takagi concluded with the findings, while commenting on the implications of the study.
The team analyzed and recorded thirty domestic cats while they were being presented with a shaken container to gather the information. The shaken container was often accompanied by a sound to simulate that something was inside and some other times without it to simulate an empty recipient.
Also, the team also recorded how many times and after which factors or stimulations the cats expected something to come out of the container when team members turned it over.
According to the study, two experimental conditions present in the study were relatable with physical laws, where shaking was accompanied by a sound or not and an object to fall out of the container or not, respectively.
The other two conditions were incongruent to the laws of physics. Either a rattling sound was followed by no object dropping out of the container or no sound while shaking led to a falling object, as reported by Phys.org.
For the results, the analysis showed that the animals looked with more attention and for longer periods of times at the containers which were shaken together with a noise. This suggested, according to the researchers, that the cats used a physical law to infer the existence or absence of objects based on whether they heard a rattle or not.
Looking for preys
Such use of a cause-and-effect understanding helped them to predict whether an object would appear once a container was overturned. The cats also looked longer at containers in incongruent conditions, meaning an object dropped despite its having been shaken noiselessly or the way around.
As a conclusion, the team suggested that the species’ surroundings influence their ability to find out information based on what they hear. The wild ones often used this ability to determined where they preys could be from sounds alone because they stake out places of poor visibility.
However, it was stated that further research on the subject is needed to identify exactly what is that the cats see in their mind’s eye when they pick up noises, and if they can predict larger information such as the quantity or the size from what they heard.
Advances in their behavior studies
The cats often have been the subject of many analysis due to its strong bond with the human kind, even though the animal is often perceived as an independent one that only looks for human contact or attention when in need. Although the animal is domesticated, as the man’s best friend is, researchers have wondered what is exactly the difference or similarity with the wild ones.
Many studies investigating their behavior have come to the surface over the last years, such as the one that was published in 2015 by the University of Edinburgh and Bronx Zoo. The paper reaches the conclusion that the animals did not unleash their full predatory qualities due to their small size, as reported by Daily Mail.
The conjoined study used a larger number of subjects than the latest Japanese study. They analyzed the behavior of 100 cats from different shelters in Scotland and compared them with the while from zoos and animal sanctuaries in the United Kingdom and the United States.
When the team compared the domesticated cats with the snow leopard, the Scottish wildcat, and the African lion, researchers found they shared similar characteristics of aggression and neurotic behavior with their wilder friends. Among the most common traits, there were dominance, impulsiveness, and the obsessive behavior.
The “Big Five” personality test was used in the study, where they took into account the animals’ openness to experience, extraversion, and introversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.