Experimenters shook boxes in front of 30 domestic cats with and without an accompanying rattling sound. Some flipped boxes yielded a dropped object, the others did not. Only two of the four scenarios — a rattling box yielding an object and a silent box yielding nothing — complied with physics. Rattling boxes without a falling object and silent boxes with a falling object both defied physics.
During the experiment, cats stared longer at rattling boxes, suggesting they rightly anticipated an object based on sound. They also stared longer when a flipped box yielded unexpected results — results incongruent with the laws of physics.
Cats use a causal-logical understanding of noise or sounds to predict the appearance of invisible objects. Scientists believe cats’ advanced use of hearing is dictated by their hunting environs. Feline predators often hunt at night when their vision is limited. They must use sound to infer a prey’s location, distance and directional movement.