Studies in Spokane have shown that virtual reality can offer us a clue to what the world looks and sounds like to a cat by altering the signals which reach our ears and eyes and by filming from cat's-eye level. It’s a start, but just as part.
One of the most basic forms of learning is Pavlovian conditioning. This entails associating a stimulus with an event. One stimulus known as the Unconditioned Stimulus is typically linked to a specific motivational state and results in an instinctive reaction referred to as the Unconditioned Response. For instance, if the Unconditioned Stimulus is the aroma of food and the motivational state is "hunger” and then drooling. If a Conditioned Stimulus such as a buzzer, takes place just prior to, or at the same time as, the Unconditioned Stimulus then its outcome is the Unconditioned Response even on its own. T he Unconditioned Response becomes a Conditioned Response and the conditioned cats drool at the sound of the buzzer.
Conditioned learning is complicated by a cat’s natural behaviors. Cats' ears are intended to hone in on noises like small crunching prey in long grass. In an experiment, arrival of food was signaled by ten seconds of a clicking sound from a loudspeaker 2’ away from the cat food dispenser. The cats sprinted towards the sound, searched around the loudspeaker and a few even struck at it. Others paid no heed to the authentic food and focused their attentions on the loudspeaker. It took hundreds of experiments to condition the cats to go to the food dispenser when they heard the clicking sounds.
Cats also have "ecologically surplus ability"-- the capability to solve problems outside of their specific adaptations to their environmental forte. Ecologically surplus abilities permit felines to cope with swift or startling change in the environment/ The cat's ecologically surplus abilities are confirmed by their ability to move from pampered cat to feral feline and back again, within a very few, short generations, or sometimes within the lifetime of a single cat.