Cats are stupid. I love mine to death, but that’s the truth. Ottie is quick, cunning, and cute enough to warm the heart of even the most committed Goldwater conservative, but her brains aren’t among her most valuable assets. Of course, people never used to be that smart, either. In terms of raw brain power, we’re the same as our ancient homo sapiens ancestors. The big difference is we’ve figured out a lot more shit than they did. Might it be the same for cats? Could the cats of thousands of generations hence look the same as they do now, but have developed a superior understanding of the world and how it works? Who knows? Maybe. And maybe those cats will remember Ottie the same way we remember Isaac Newton.
She’s been conducting gravity experiments. I’m convinced that’s what she’s been doing, intensively, almost every day for the last six months. She’ll jump up on a table or a shelf or a countertop, select an object sitting nearby — a pair of glasses, a contact lens case, a large bottle of ibuprofen with the lid off — and nudge it with her paw over the edge onto the floor. Then she’ll stand there looking down at it, observing it. What is she doing, I wonder. Trying to estimate the distance from the table to the floor so she might calculate the rate of descent? By this point she must have formed some form of preliminary hypothesis about the force which pulls the objects from the countertop to the floor; I believe it goes something like this:
“Push things off the table and they fall onto the floor. Corollary: If the thing is an open bottle with little things inside, the little things will be thrown across the floor into all corners of the kitchen when the bottle lands.”
Like any good scientist, Ottie continues to subject her hypothesis to rigorous experimentation. She observes objects of various sizes, shapes and weights — pencils, pens, candles, various coins, rings, earrings and necklaces, boxes of fabric softener sheets, cellular phones, cans of fish food — often inspecting them at length on the floor following the fall, rolling them across the floor, pawing at them, attempting to discern their properties and determine how those might have affected the fall. She conducted extensive research on the rate of descent of Ashley’s wireless mouse before I figured out she couldn’t get to it if I hid it behind the keyboard and pushed the keyboard drawer in all the way at night. I felt guilty for obstructing science, but it’s an expensive mouse.
Ashley protests every once in awhile about lost jewelry or finding her contact case on the floor by the bathroom sink, but I tell her, “Look, what would you rather have — your great-grandmother’s onyx ring, or the cat that discovered gravity?”
When Ottie isn’t pursuing her gravity experiments, she’s engaged in her other primary scientific interest: an in-depth and far-reaching sleep study. For what? To determine the optimum number of hours of sleep per day, perhaps? Or an investigation into the nature of lucid dreaming? I’m not sure. But with no other cats in the house to use as subjects, being the dedicated scientist she is, Ottie usually just experiments on herself. She’s running a test right now on my lap, waking occasionally to check her data, I presume. Her dedication is extraordinary.