Once the experimental filmmakers had placed the robot kitty on the living room floor in 2015, they retreated to their hiding place behind the camera and lay in wait. The Californian’s first test subject was shown entering the room, but how would the real-life moggie react to a mechanical-cat counterpart? With some apprehension, the proper pussy was filmed stalking slowly towards the artificial interloper. But did the curious creature realize the fur was faux and this snow-white feline was actually a phony? Even if it did, the actual result was a viral video packed with hilarious moments and impossible cuteness.
With the great advances in artificial intelligence seen in recent years, it appears that robot critters are on the rise. There has been a lot of experimentation, both academic and non-academic, involving animatronic animals of late. Sometimes, naturalist documentary makers may equip a man-made creature with cameras to give us an entertaining and revealing look at the secret lives of wildlife. Alternatively, animal behavioral scientists have used ’droid doppelgängers to interact with live subjects to yield insights into why creatures carry on the way they do.
But as much as experts in various fields have utilized robotic creatures for education and enlightenment, they can also be used to provoke some highly entertaining animal reactions. A good example of this was a video uploaded by the Such Wow channel to YouTube in December 2015. Such Wow is an internet content creator based in Oakland, California, which is all over social media. On YouTube, it states, “We love science, cute animals, bitcoin, internet memes, and alpha geeks. With these ingredients, we bring to you a channel full of epic win.” In this particular piece of film, interested observers are shown introducing a clutch of cats to an artificial feline.
In fact, the snow-white experimental tool was actually an animatronic play pet from the FurReal line by toy company Hasbro. The “My Cuddlin’ Kitty” robot cat is called Lulu by its manufacturer, and it has been programmed to react in different ways – depending on where the toy is touched – such as moving the head or meowing.
The Such Wow investigators set Lulu up in a bright room where several different cats could be introduced to her, and sat back to film their reactions. Fortunately, the camera captured everything, and the results were highly amusing to say the least. To begin with, the footage shows the bona fide felines’ initial reactions.
Two of the cats look massively confused – or should that be purrplexed? – at the sight of the robot kitty. The test subjects’ wide eyes and bemused expressions reveal that they have perhaps seen something they cannot un-see. But would the cats consider this strange new furry feline as a friend or a foe?
When people recount stories about potentially dangerous situations, they may make mention of the fight-or-flight response. This internal trigger is pulled when threatening external events create a deluge of chemicals in an animal’s body. Fight-or-flight indicates the two potential outcomes of this hormonal rush for someone or something in such a scenario – either they stand their ground or they flee.
However, a lesser-known psychological term is fight-flight-freeze, which expands on the original concept. Some animals – including humans – can “freeze” on the spot as a third coping mechanism when confronted by imminent danger. It is a form of mental and physical paralysis which occurs when the victim cannot cope with a perceived threat.
And scientists have observed cats responding in a fight-flight-freeze fashion. If the cat in question chooses to fight, it will try and make its opponent retreat using a variety of scare tactics. Firstly, the frightened feline’s hair will stand on end, to give its aggressor the illusion of a much larger animal.
In addition, a cat will hiss and snarl threateningly towards any attacker in an attempt to intimidate. However, if all else fails, a defensive moggie will still have its powerful claws and sharp teeth to rely on. And, if you have ever been on the receiving end of a cat swipe, you will know how much of a deterrent a well-aimed scratch can be!
Nevertheless, most claws appear to be retracted in the Such Wow footage. In the film, we see that once the feline subjects get over their initial confusion, they seem happy to approach Lulu. Admittedly, some cats appear to be more curious than others – both a tuxedo and a gray pussy go up to sniff the robot. On the other paw, a few kitties actually seem to think that the innocent-looking Lulu presents a threat.
In fact, these mistrustful moggies are shown creeping up on the toy cat like they are stalking prey. Two kitties in particular circle Lulu in a similar manner to lions hunting down a zebra. However, a few felines appear to be unsure what to make of the artificial animal. These experimental subjects prefer to observe her from afar.
The Such Wow video captures a comical moment when a ginger puss simply stares at Lulu in wonder – even when she moves. But arguably the funniest reaction comes from a black cat sat directly in front of Lulu. When the toy adjusts, the feline looks around in stunned shock.
As the test cats get braver, they increasingly start to approach Lulu. More of the actual animals pick up the courage to sniff the battery-powered stranger too. Their bravery makes it all the more hilarious when Lulu meows and turns her head. The unexpected movement makes the cats jump in surprise.
Eventually the pussies decide to investigate Lulu with their paws to see what reaction they get from the robot. A few cats gently swat at the toy, while others openly jab at it with their paws. For a few adorable seconds, a beautiful long-maned moggie even bops Lulu’s nose.
The final reactions vary from cat to cat, and the footage captures a range of feline feelings. One of the pussies continues to look at Lulu, as if the animal is actually trying to stare-down the ’droid. Another animal has evidently had enough of the strange white feline, and we see the scaredy-cat turn tail and run away.
Nevertheless, the kitty who had previously poked Lulu with its paw is next seen going in close for another sniff. This move causes the animatronic moggie to move its head slightly and the eyes to open. However, the real cat’s reflexes appear razor sharp, and the alarmed animal leaps into the air as a result of the sudden motion.
But the bravest cat in the video is the long-haired kitty from before, who is now shown lying on the floor right next to the toy. The subject either really likes Lulu or the clever cat has worked out that the white robot is not a real feline. Whatever the answer is, the test cat is quite happy to relax against the testing Lulu.
The exact purpose of the Such Wow experiment is never made clear, but the hilarious results go a long way to satisfying a cat lover’s curiosity and appetite for entertainment. The varied ways in which each confused cat approached Lulu, reveal a lot about their individual personalities and perhaps give us paws for thought.
Indeed, more than two million animal lovers have enjoyed the adorable antics of the felines meeting their robotic cat companion. But perhaps the video inadvertently reveals something more than just how funny cats can be. Seeing each moggie interacting with a potential threat reveals the subjects of the experiment as individuals in their own right. Every one of them is wonderful in their own way, so cat fanciers seeking a unique bond with their animal are advised to get to know them well – and not to toy with their affections.