Cats exist in their own three states of matter: loaf, cinnamon roll, and liquid. The last category is certainly the most confusing because cats should be solids — and of course, they can be. But anyone who owns a cat knows kitties can contort themselves in the most astonishing ways, seamlessly smooshing themselves into any object they choose.

A cat researcher tells Inverse that cats’ anatomy makes them the fluffy liquids we know and love.

“Cats are super flexible in general, and a big part of that has to do with the structure of their collar bones which are quite different than ours,” Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, says. “They’re only attached by muscle, not bone, which adds to the cat’s already impressive flexibility (for example in their spine). This means that if their head fits through, probably the rest of them can too, which is why some cats can squeeze under doors or cracked windows.”

cats in boxes
(Left to Right): Bug and Nishi. (Images: Heather W, James O'Brien)

Being flexible could be advantageous to cats, who still, after all these years, haven’t been able to kick their wild instincts.

“[Flexibility] allows cats to access elusive prey hiding in tight spots, or escape predators,” Delgado says. “It also allows them to jump, climb, and run fast!”

Sink Sleeping
Sparty taking a nap in the bathroom sink.

While the idea of cats as liquid might seem like meme fodder — which it totally is — there’s been some research about kitty liquids. In a 2014 study called “Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?” French scientist Marc-Antoine Fardin calculated how and why cats of different ages can retain such unusual shapes. The study won in last year’s Ig Nobel Prize, which awards science research that could be considered silly — not that kitty fluid dynamics is a joke, or anything.

It’s true that we may never understand how cats can be liquids, cinnamon rolls, loaves, rotisserie chickens, muffins, eggplants, and doughnuts all at the same time. But no one ever claimed that comprehending these floofy enigmas would be easy.