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No. 84: Nov-Dec 1992

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Clever cat

Tales about clever animals abound, but the following is too good to pass up.

It seems that C.G. Martin, residing in Stoke-on-Trent, had to trap a feral cat. He wrote as follows:

"Although I have made an adequate living as a mechanical design engineer, it took me a couple of minutes to work out how to position the various rods and links to set and bait the trap, which done, I observed from a concealed position. The cat duly arrived, studied the trap suspiciously from different angles, retired, sat and contemplated. Then, after less time than it had taken me to work it out, she entered the trap purposefully, placed her paws underneath the trip plate, took the food and backed out."

(Martin, C.G.; "Clever Cat," New Scientist, p. 53, August 29, 1992.)

An even cleverer cat

Yes, it's true that cats can circumvent our specially designed traps, but we did not realize that they also knew their aerodynamics.

"Why is it safer for a cat to fall from a 32-storey building than from a seven-storey building?

"Just ask scientific and medical reporter Karl Kruszelnicki, whose theory is based on a study of 150 cats that plummeted from windows at different heights.

"Falling from 32 storeys, a cat had more time to work out a plan of action, because once it reached terminal velocity and stopped accelerating, it started to relax, he said in Sydney yesterday.

"Once the moggie reached top speed of 100 kmh and realised it was not speeding up any more, it spreadeagled its limbs in the perfect position for maximum wind resistance.

"'Once it reaches the ground, the cat just kisses the ground on all four paws simultaneously and the shock is absorbed,' Dr. Kruszelnicki told his bemused audience at the University of New South Wales during a talk organized by the Alumni Association.

"Of the 150 cats that fell from highrise buildings in New York over a five-month period, 10 per cent died, with the chances of survival rising with the distance of the fall."

It seems that at least one cat per day takes the plunge in New York City, but do they jump...or are they pushed? Dr. Kruszelnicki supposed that some may have leaped at passing birds!

(Anonymous; "High-Flying Cats Have the Big Drop Licked," Wellington, New Zealand, The Dominion, September 17, 1992. Cr. P. Hassall)

From Science Frontiers #84, NOV-DEC 1992. � 1992-2000 William R. Corliss