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  • Writer's pictureDr Meredith Wall

Schrödinger's cat eats a mouse. And doesn't.

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

You may be wondering about the name of Veterinary Nutrition Group's blog. Who was Schrödinger's cat? What did he like to eat? And finally, why does it matter?

Schrödinger's cat was actually a creation of Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger. In fact, Schrödinger's cat is probably the most infamous thought experiment in the history of science. I'm sure you've heard how it goes: a cat is placed in a box with a diabolical device containing a single unstable atom that has a 50% chance of undergoing a radioactive decay in the next hour. If the atom decays, the device will kill the cat. At the end of the hour, before you open the box, what is the state of the cat?

"Everyone's heard of Erwin Schrodinger's famous thought experiment. You put a cat in a box with a bottle of poison, which many people would suggest is about as far as you need to go." -Terry Prachett

Common sense (and most of the population) would say that the cat is either alive or dead. But scientists know that these atoms are capable of being in multiple states at once – meaning that a particle could be decaying or not decaying at the same time.

Hmmm, already weird, but unfortunately it gets worse. It follows that the diabolical device could simultaneously be activated and not activated, and by extension, the cat could be equally alive and dead at the same time. This is a clearly an exceptionally bizarre idea, and if you're not a physicist or a liar, you can probably admit that you don't really get it.

“In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious." -Terry Prachett

Here's where cat owners may be at an advantage in terms of understanding this devious conundrum. I’ve had quite a few cats over the years (four at the moment!), and I’m fairly convinced they do actually exist in the quantum realm, as they continually seem to be on both sides of the back door (but usually turn up on the wrong side, of course, and demand to be let in). Furthermore, they seem to both simultaneously like and dislike the same food, although of course this depends on how much you spent on the food.

So did Erwin Schrödinger actually have a cat? And what does this have to do with pet nutrition?

Quantum cat food can

Unfortunately, it's difficult to know who the real Schrödinger's cat was. Many sources allege that Schrödinger had a cat named Milton at the home in Oxford that he was sharing with his legal wife and his longtime mistress in 1935. Sadly, there's no real evidence to support this though.

So why did we choose this paradoxical feline for the title of our blog? There are three reasons, and Schrödinger's cat is an embodiment of them all:

  1. We favour an an evidence-based approach to pet nutrition. We love science. We love ideas and questions. We love research and discoveries. Schrödinger and his cat would hopefully approve.

  2. Nutrition is complex and subtle. We don't yet have all the answers. We only discovered that folic acid can prevent birth defects in 1976. Imagine what we will know tomorrow. Schrödinger's cat reminds us to think outside the box, so to speak.

  3. Nutrition is a fascinating science, but it is also an intrinsic part of our day-to-day lives. It should be about pleasure and enjoyment too. For both humans and animals. Who doesn't love food?

Cartoon about Schrodinger's cat eating pizza and napping

Thanks for reading, and welcome to our blog.

Siberian cat in a box like Schrodinger's cat
Is this Schrodinger's cat? I can't tell if it's dead or alive. Oh wait, it's just Whirly.

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