Cat Tunneling

by Frederick B. Reitz, Ph.C.
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington
Illustrations by Marian Parry

I report here the first evidence that domestic cats exhibit quantum tunneling.

Subatomic particles can make seemingly impossible, instantaneous "jumps" from one place to another. This has been known in theory for well over half a century. Numerous examples of it have been observed and meticulously documented. Known as "quantum tunneling," this strange phenomenon had previously been thought to occur only on very small scales.

In this paper I report instances of the spontaneous relocation of entire cats. Though cats are arguably quantal to the extent that they tend to exist as discrete entities, the appreciable magnitude of some of the cats in question constitutes a novel aspect of the tunneling phenomenon.

Quantum Tunneling

The physical literature contains many reports of electrons and similar particles spontaneously jumping or "tunneling" from one place to another via so-called "forbidden" routes. This phenomenon has enjoyed much attention since the advent of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). In all reports to date, the particles in question have ranged in size from extremely small to very, very small, with rare cases involving particles that are merely quite small.

House Pets

House pets have also frequently been observed to exhibit unusual behavior. Dogs circle many times before sitting down. Cats forget to retract their tongues after bathing, and hamsters sleep in their food dishes.

Non-Newtonian House Pets

Pets are rarely attributed with exotic, non-Newtonian physical behavior. However, cats and dogs that are especially long-haired can exhibit a wavelike appearance. Furthermore, animals clearly interfere with each other, sometimes destructively (as with cats and dogs, or with cats and humans that are attempting to read a newspaper), sometimes constructively (as with rabbits and rabbits).

Quantum Petting

Erwin Schr?dinger alluded, in a famous thought experiment, to the general question of the quantum behavior of cats. However, I believe that my report presents the first documented instances of the spontaneous tunneling of cats, and also the first documented reports of related quasi-electromagnetic cat phenomena.

Cat Tunneling: Case 1

In my own residence, I and several other party guests personally observed the case of Chloe, a large black Himalayan. Though the extent of the cat's fur decreased the certainty with which one could specify the cat's position and momentum (c.f., the Himalyan Uncertainty Principle), and our garage door is only a few inches thick, the tunneling event was no less remarkable in light of her prodigious girth (she weighed 15 pounds, frequently intimidating our German Shepherd into sharing his dinner). The cat was initially observed sleeping in the driveway. When next observed several minutes later, the cat was nowhere to be seen. We opened the garage door, at which point Chloe left the garage, obviously having tunneled through the closed door. We marveled at this phenomenon, and, as we closed the side door to the garage, discussed plans for further study.

Cat Tunneling: Case 2

The next such instance brought to my attention was one Snuggles Jr. of Lansing, Michigan, who was found on June 10, 1995, at 10:31 AM resting comfortably amidst a fresh batch of clothing, inside an automatic clothes dryer. As the dryer door was closed, and the owners did not remember having let the cat in, the transition was judged to be spontaneous. Discussion with the owners, regarding house policies pertaining to where the cat was and was not allowed to go, established the forbidden nature of this transition. Given that the cat was not even allowed in the laundry room, the span of the forbidden transition of the 6 pound cat was at least than 7 linear feet-clearly this constitutes tunneling on an unprecedented scale.

Cat Tunneling: Case 3

Finally, there is the case of "Giggles," a largish calico of uncertain dimensions who was remarkable for his repeated and unsuccessful attempts to violate the Pauli Exclusion Principle with the neighbor's tabby (who in turn might have been more cooperative had she not been spayed). Though arguably the tunneling that Giggles did to get under the fence between his yard and the neighbor's was of a conventional sort, his consistent failure to include any other similar cat in his proximity and same state of excitation is compellingly consistent with previous results found on smaller scales.


Given these data, I am led to the following conclusions:

  1. Cats do exhibit the sort of tunneling behavior previously attributed only to subatomic particles, car keys, and socks;

  2. Despite the finite probability of a cat tunneling spontaneously through a door, the probability of this event is low enough that leaving the cat closed in one's bedroom for a prolonged period of time is inadvisable; and

  3. One's cat should indeed be blamed for the majority of stools found in inappropriate locations.

Copyright © 1998 The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). All rights reserved.


This article is republished with permission from the March-April 1998 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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Yes. My deceased tortoiseshell cat Betty was clearly the mistress of quantum tunneling. My partner and I had confirmation of this whilst on vacation many years ago. The housesitter called us to check and see whether perpetually being on the opposite side of the door to the outside from which she was supposed to be (based on the last actions of the housesitter) was normal for Betty.
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My cat, Little George posted a discussion of the history of quantum tunneling by Schroedingers cat several years ago. To get the REAL story go to:
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