We’re cat-sitting again, and the kitty, now older and wiser, is leading us through more complex thought experiments.
This week’s lesson is a variation on the theme: How does the cat know whether you are alive or dead?
(As with previous thought experiments we have conducted, no cats–or in this case, humans–were harmed in this exercise.)
Conditions: At 23:15 the cat was lured into her guest bedroom with a kitty treat. The room is familiar. She and her owner occupied it on their first visit. It is equipped with cat and human beds, a litter box, a timed food dispenser and cat toys. A desk lamp was left on and the door was secured before the experimenters retired for the evening across the hall at about 23:45.
Observations: After a few minutes alone, the cat attempted to make contact with the humans with small unemotional mews. The effect was much like a dinging buoy bell or pinging a computer on a network. The message appeared to be: I’m here. Where are you?
The pingings stopped at about 23:50, when the house was quiet except for human snoring.
The human snoring stopped at about 05:40 when a rhythmic thumping was heard coming from the experimental chamber. The sound was accompanied by another gentle session of pinging-style mews. This confirmed to the humans that the cat was still alive. The activity of the humans confirmed to the cat that the humans were still alive, and the mews soon stopped when the snoring resumed.
The experiment concluded at 07:00, when the first of the humans resumed daily activities and opened the door to the guest room.
Conclusion: The human experimenter observed that the kitty was alive and well. The cat conducted a leg-rub test before confirming the same about the human.
Further observation and experimentation may be required to determine the source of the thumping sound. One hypothesis is that the cat was attempting to use the door handle to open the door.