While Schrödinger's cat thought experiment serves a greater purpose than animal cruelty enjoyment, one of the possible results is a dead cat. Gruesome or not is one's appreciation, but you will always find someone joking about "oh boy this guy must have hated cats".

Which leads to a simple question, why did Schrödinger choose a cat in the first place, instead of, say, a lamb or a goldfish?

The only thing I was able to find online so far is some idle-guessing-looking "Pictures of Cats" website which doesn't seem really trustworthy (here). Is there a more reliable source?

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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia used to have a reference to his cat "Milton" which he supposedly owned in Oxford; More recent edits have removed this claim. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger#cite_note-8 - "(Ref does not support existence of said cat (also p 278 is about 1943 not 1934, according to Google Books); Milton was inserted by a now-banned user; I can find no evidence of Milton that predates the 2013 edit.)" $\endgroup$
    – Valorum
    Oct 4, 2018 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ I've also found repeated references to his cat Toby which seems to relate back to a (1998) New Scientist article about this very same question. Numerous wags suggested "Toby (or not Toby)" and, in the same vein Hamlet. $\endgroup$
    – Valorum
    Oct 4, 2018 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ Milton seems to be a severe case of Citogenesis, popping up all over the place; books.google.co.uk/… $\endgroup$
    – Valorum
    Oct 4, 2018 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Since the identity of the animal is moot as far as the thought experiment is concerned this question is not about history of science and mathematics. Biographical details, including personal preferences, are only on-topic here to the extent that they affect science and mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Oct 5, 2018 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ Because cats love napping inside boxes. Have you seen the internet lately? :-) $\endgroup$ Oct 5, 2018 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


Erwin Schrödinger doesn't appear to have personally owned a cat. He did however own a dog.

But even noises have their timbre, from which we may infer what is going on; and even my dog is familiar with the peculiar noise of the opening of a certain tin box, out of which he occasionally receives a biscuit.

What is Life?: With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches By Roger Schrodinger, Erwin Schrödinger

His great-aunt owned several cats. He speaks disapprovingly of them on several occasions, making multiple references to "yowling" cats and making specific reference to a tomcat named Thomas Becket that seems to have made a particular impression on him.

An aunt of my mother's also lived there with her husband, Alfred Kirk, and six Angora cats. (In later years there were said to be twenty.) In addition she had an ordinary tomcat who would very often come home from his nocturnal adventures in a sad state, so he was given the name Thomas Becket (referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed in office by order of King Henry II) not that this meant a great deal to me then, nor was it very appropriate.

What is Life?: With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches By Roger Schrodinger, Erwin Schrödinger

  • $\begingroup$ Hm, interesting, and far too large to fit in a comment, but this doesn't answer the question. I won't downvote because it's valuable and can't be a comment, but just wanted to point out that this isn't an answer. $\endgroup$ Oct 5, 2018 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ @NicholasPipitone - Well, he seems to have liked his dog and disliked his aunt's cats. Presumably shoving a dog in a box sounded like a bad idea but poisoning a cat was just jim-dandy $\endgroup$
    – Valorum
    Oct 5, 2018 at 18:15

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