The Wide Angle: Cats and an understanding of physics

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 25, 2021

You’re in luck! I’m going to talk about my cats … or more appropriately, I’m going to talk about how I’m not sleeping these days. But rest assured the two subjects are closely entwined.

Here’s the very first thing you need to understand about our cats, and cats in general — Buster and Nemi don’t really associate with us at night during the summer. Nemi has her moments where she jumps on the bed and goes back and forth between us, taking extreme care to walk on both of us before settling down next to one of us.

For about five minutes, all the effort she puts into saying goodnight is thrown out the window as she leaves for her throne on the corner of the couch.

But for the most part, we are allowed to sleep blissfully through the night, until it starts cooling down.Then suddenly these two demons understand the warmth available to them each night.

This has been the case each night as of late as temperatures dip and there is less need for an air conditioner. Add to that that I’m one of those weirdos that needs a fan each night and it can get a bit chilly. It should be no coincidence that now suddenly these two want to be near us. Very near us.

It’s not as if I dislike them sleeping with us. It’s part of the joy of pet ownership, but our two cats seem to have physics-bending abilities that turn the prospect of a good night’s sleep into a battle for sleeping supremacy we very rarely win.

The basic question is this: How is it that I am over four-times bigger than Buster and Nemi, and yet they seem to dominate the sleeping experience?

That is our hypothesis that we shall explore in the rest of this scientific paper that I expect to have published in “Nature” or some other journal I neither understand nor read.

The process of adjusting to a night of rest includes the very important first step of turning the lights off, followed by listening intently to make sure cats are not getting up on the counter, beating up on each other, tearing something to pieces or, as previously stated, beating up on each other.

During the height of summer, this can be a problem, but as the days begin to cool, the routine shifts and mere minutes after finding that perfect sleeping position, the two beasties add their mass, small as it is, to the equation.

Newton’s first law (you know the guy with the apple and such) indicates that a body at rest will stay at rest until a net external force acts upon it and that a body in motion will remain in motion at a constant velocity until acted on by a net external force.

In this case, we would very happily remain at rest until acted upon by an obnoxious external force that demands to sleep as close to you as possible — Newton’s hidden law he kept to himself. Trust me on this.

The night starts easily enough, but I rarely get to sleep right away these days, which is often complicated when the battle of wills begins between me and Buster.

I’m not really sure why Buster gravitates to me at night, but maybe that’s a scientific exploration for another time.

Either way, his huddled mass occupies the crook of my legs, exerting pressure from his side, while Nemi sprawls out to impossible lengths on her side, exerting the same pressure, leaving the two humans very little space to lay comfortably.

This is made worse later in the night when somehow, after falling asleep, these two comparatively smaller creatures somehow get us to occupy spaces that are opposite to comfortable sleeping. Observe the following equation:

C2 = 2h(B) – 8hr comfortable sleep

The C2 stands in for furballs that sleep just fine.

And no, I don’t care if the equation is wrong. Do I need to write another column about how bad I am at math?

Either way, the physics question we need to answer doesn’t address how the shifting weight of smaller bodies can manipulate humans. He must also consider critically how they gain extra mass while in a sleeping or drowsy state.

Several times during the night I will try to move Buster. Often it is achieved easily enough because when you try to alter his position, he just leaves.

But in this situation, he is in full rest, thus when I try to move his limp body, it is clear he has gained additional mass, making him feel like moving a wet bag of melted lead.

It doesn’t matter anyway because he just moves back and the equation and questions have to be reexamined because my cat is a jerk.

Of course, they complicate it further by waking up a full hour ahead of time to alert me that they are hungry, allowing me to formulate the answer to the previously stated equation, which comes out to two.

Science, ladies and gentlemen. Science.