I can has gravity, or, Cats… In… Space…

In an odd experiment, US Air Force scientists took cats into a weightless situation – flying high up in a steep arc to create zero gravity for 15 seconds – and tested whether cats would flip over when dropped, the way they do in normal gravity.

They didn’t.

I’m not entirely sure what the point was of this experiment. If there’s no gravity, you don’t drop, so the cat wouldn’t know to flip. Then again, perhaps they were trying to find whether it was the dropping, or the appearance of dropping (i.e., the cat seeing itself in mid-air, untethered) that provoked the cat to flip over.

weightless-catAnyway, it was kind of a funny mess. The cats start at around 3:40 into the video.

Actually at around the 4:10 mark some pigeons that they tested too. The pigeons get a bit discombobulated trying to fly. That one is actually quite interesting.

Apparently some animal-lovers in the comments over at YouTube got very upset about the cat experiments, prompting one YouTuber to write in response (in jest):

Slightly inconveniencing those cats is literally worse than the holocaust.


Here are some more animals in space, for those who are interested:

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • “Slightly inconveniencing those cats is literally worse than the holocaust.”? Good grief, what is wrong people on YouTube?

    It is Cat-egorically worse. Sheesh.

  • Cats are not amused!

  • therling

    Looks like the Air Force version of “Confuse-a-Cat.”


  • I’m sure those cool cats knew their G spot without zero gravity.

  • bcpipes

    I want one of those beer helmets!

  • Naja pallida

    Most zero G tests like that are done aboard the various aircraft known as the Vomit Comet.

  • WE should have landed the cats in the Soviet Union, after that trip, and the cold war could have been finished in a day.

  • Chris had his cat-carrier fall apart – one of those huge plastic ones with the holes, almost like a cage – fall apart as he was taking the cat to the vet, on the metro. Apparently it wasn’t a pretty sight.

  • Well, at least there were humans there too, so it wasn’t a one-way mission. Also, this was an airplane, as I suspected – that shot up super fast, then arched down to create zero g. So hopefully they were coming back, though I do worry about the possibility of dissection, as one person noted.

  • Cat Man Do

    If you think that’s cruel, what if you found out they got dissected after the plane landed!?!

    C’mon. Put this into perspective. How will the cat flip reflex respond in zero gravity? Can birds fly in zero gravity? These are interesting questions, and there is no way to get answers without trying it out.

    Sorry, but that’s the price of being domesticated. I’m sure they ate some treats and forgot all about it. Oh, and for the record I’m a cat person. I had a great calico until she had to be putdown with cancer. Never should have signed her up for the cigarette smoking study. . .

  • jomicur

    I’m inclined to agree. Cats don’t deal well with the unfamiliar. I’m raising two deaf kittens (just on the verge of adulthood). They are normally quite calm and happy; many visitors have no idea they’re deaf. But every once in a while a really loud sound occurs, such as a big truck rumbling down the street. Then they can “hear” the vibrations, and their invariable response is blind terror. And what could be less familiar than zero G? (I’m also inclined to agree with the commenter who said the cats would probably adjust if given a few days, though.)

    This “experiment” strikes me as quite pointless cruelty. I found myself thinking of Tom Lehrer’s lyric to “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”: “We’ll murder them all amid laughter and merriment/Except for the ones we take home to experiment.”

  • pappyvet

    My cat would have found SOMETHING to dig a claw into or left a response in the form of a dumpling somewhere on the plane,and in several hidden locations for at least 6 months until he was sure that his message was perfectly clear.

  • S1AMER

    I suspect the cats were terrified. Yes, that’s cruelty. The greatest cruelty the world has ever known? Of course not. But subjecting any animal to a totally unfamiliar environment is undoubtedly terrifying.

  • pattyp

    They should have tested the cats and pigeons at the time same. Now THAT would have been an experiment!

  • Drew2u

    how did they transport the animals back to earth, or is this the 1960s we’re talking about?

  • CrankyObserver

    It took humans dozens of hours to learn how to move around in zero gee [1]; most of the original astronauts (ex-football and basketball players) couldn’t do it until one who had been a gymnast showed them how. I suspect the results would be different if the cats had a few days to get used to the situation.


    Teaching them to use the the litterbox would be another issue…

    [1] “Micro-gravity” for the joyless.

  • what is the usda allowance for meta, and how much meta is in a serving of cat meat?

  • cole3244

    humans just being careless humans, animals are here for our pleasure, no story here.

  • RepubAnon

    Those cats seemed far more calm than I’d expect – ever had a cat get loose in a car while in transit to the vet’s office? Those cats seemed very, very mellow – but then, the footage where the Air Force types were mauled and bitten by frightened felines may not have made it into the movie.

  • I know. I’m surprised those Air Force guys survived.

  • pattyp

    Dude, have you ever slightly inconvenienced a cat? You have no idea what you’re dealing with.

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