I have just witnessed one of the more strange, wonderful and hilarious things I’ve ever seen: a cat trying to implement an idea. Do cats have imagination? Can they conceive of novel plans involving tool use and then set about putting them creatively into action? The answer would appear to be a giant yes.
My neighbor’s cat likes to sit on the path. However, today it’s cold. It would be much nicer to sit on something soft and warm on the path. So my cat brought a rag out of the house and took it to the place on the path where it likes to sit. However, the rag wasn’t very large, and the cat seemed unable to realize that the best way to arrange itself on the rag was to let go of it first.
It then rotated slowly several times on the path in a surreal crouching gait, forlornly trying to optimize both the rag and its backside at the same time. It badly wanted to sit down on the rag while keeping it in its mouth at the same time. For a brief period, this seemed to work; then the whole notion was abandoned. The rag now lies on the steps of the deck—a failed first step at feline civilization. The cat is sitting on the wooden deck looking vaguely disgruntled.
This isn’t a particularly impressive outcome, I grant you. However, the cat tried, which is more than I’ve seen the dog do.
There would seem to be several interesting takeaway lessons from this:
1: Cats really are hilarious. Those annoying ‘interwebs’ people had it right all along.
2: Creative planning is more widespread in mammals than we might imagine.
3: Somewhat more speculatively: Cats are motivated by personal comfort in the way that parrots are motivated by jealousy. If we want to do psychology experiments with cats, they should probably involve warm air vents, good views, and plenty of velvet.
2 thoughts on “Feline Imagination”
Don’t forget the ‘cats always lands on their feet’ vs ‘buttered toast always lands face-down’ experiment where you tie one to the other and drop them from a height. Is there room for velvet in there?
I bet there is. Probably it hasn’t worked yet because the cat’s inherent telepathic potential hasn’t been fully invoked. If we strapped some nice comfy velvet to its back instead, the cat wouldn’t be able to choose which way to land. The force of its own indecision would keep it levitated and spinning.
However, I don’t recommend this as, without careful moderation, the rate of spin might accelerate dangerously and cause the cat to rip itself apart at near light-speed. At those velocities, cat-fragments would cut through the planet like a light-sabre through warm ghee. The devastation would be terrible.