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Your cat can calculate the distance from something he hears, just from the sound of it

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Posted on July 21, 2016: You may feel that cats being animals have no understanding of science, especially a tough branch of it- physics. A study, however, points to the fact that felines have an inborn understanding of physics. In fact, they comprehend the principle of cause and effect. This coupled with their acute sense of hearing, enables cats to detect where a prospective prey may be hiding, avers a new study. This study was printed in the journal of Animal Cognition.

Simply because of their astute hearing sense, they can gauge the presence of objects, which they cannot see. Researchers from the Kyoto University in Japan have conducted this research. They had set out to find out if cats abide by an informal means of finding out if a container holds an object, depending on the sound it emits when shaken. The team also wanted to find out, if the cats anticipated that an object would fall out if a container was overturned.


They caught the experiment on camera. An experimenter shook containers, some of them emitted a rattling sound during the process. The remaining containers didn’t produce any sound, which indicated that the containers were empty. After shaking, the containers were turned over. Either an object dropped forth from them, or didn’t.

One of the experiments was in sync with the laws of physics. In that experiment, an object emerged from the containers which emanated a rattling sound. The containers which did not produce a rattling sound did not pop out an object.

The other two experiments were incongruent with the laws of physics. Either no object dropped from the container, despite a clear rattling sound being ushered from them. Or, despite no sound coming from the container, an object surfaced from it.

The cats gazed on for long at those objects which rattled. This was indicative of the fact that the cats expected something to topple from the containers which rattled. They did not expect anything to drop from the container from which no sound was heard.

The cats also lingered on their gaze at the containers which yielded results which didn’t agree with the law of physics. It was as if they were puzzled when an object came out of a container which was noiseless when shaken. When a noisy container was found to be empty as well, they were equally baffled.


Saho Takagi, who hails from the Kyoto University had inferred that cats have a causal logical comprehension of sounds or noise to predict whether or not a container contains an object. Because of this, they have the ability of assessing their surroundings based on the sound that they hear. While hunting for a prey, they also ascertain whether it is around by trying to gauge if they can hear it. Especially in areas of low visibility, they try to fathom the distance from the prey by hearing it out.

In day to day life, you must have noticed that cats may look intently when you shake a can of food and relentlessly follow you mewing till you serve them food from it. No wonder then that a cat which is hard of hearing has a tough time coping in this world.



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