Schrödinger’s Cat and Pavlov’s Dog: An Unlikely Love Story

Sadie and the Tramp

Two of the most famous animals in the field of experimental psychology were Schrödinger‘s cat Sadie and Pavlov‘s dog Tramp. But what most people don’t know is that these two pioneering pets met and fell in love when Drs. Schrödinger and Pavlov attended a conference at the pet-friendly Grand Budapest Hotel in Hungary – or as Pavlov called it “The Buddha Pets Hotel.”


Dr. Schrödinger

Dr. Pavlov

Whenever these eminent doctors traveled they often brought their pets with them – Schrödinger his elegant cat Sadie and Pavlov his mutt of a dog Tramp. That two animals from such different walks of life could forge a loving relationship is testament to the adage “opposites attract.” Schrödinger’s cat Sadie was a prissy pussy from Paris and Pavlov’s dog Tramp was a mangey mongrel from Minsk. Legend has it that their romance may have been the inspiration for Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp which featured canine love from opposite sides of the tracks.



Brief Bios of the Bygone Beasts


Schrödinger’s cat Sadie, a dainty calico, was the instructive feline that catalyzed Dr. Schrödinger’s theory about the paradox of quantum superposition. In quantum superposition, Dr. Schrödinger reasoned, a hypothetical cat unobserved in a closed box may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead – and its location uncertain. This was big news in the1930s. Not so much nowadays with all the cat videos, but back then quantum superposition was a big deal and we owe Sadie a great debt of gratitude for getting into the box and germinating Dr. Schrödinger’s “Eureka” moment.


The above is a quick cat’s claw sketch (as opposed to a thumbnail sketch) of darling Sadie. Tramp, on the other paw, was less refined and kind of an overly alarmist pooch – y’know, the dog who cried “woof.” By regularly pairing the ringing of a bell with a blast of meat powder on the tongue, Dr. Pavlov caused the poor slob to slobber like Niagara Falls. In fact, what Dr. Pavlov discovered was that even in the absence of food, Tramp would salivate like an open fire hydrant whenever he heard a bell ringing. This reinforcing psychological technique is called Classical Conditioning and for a time was the safest way to feed Mike Tyson.


Being born in the old Soviet Union, Tramp may have rightfully expected a short, brutish life – especially after being born the runt of the litter. And how fitting that was, since Sadie was also the runt of her kitty litter – so to speak. When Dr. Pavlov saw Tramp in the window of a “No Eat” animal shelter in famine-ravaged Minsk he knew if he didn’t rescue the lovable Tramp it would dog him forever. When the famine subsided “No Eat” shelters reverted to “No Kill” shelters. In any event Dr. Pavlov was attracted to the marvelous mutt and brought him home to his wife Seraphima, who took one glance at the bedraggled hound and exclaimed, “Great, dinner.”


“No, no,” countered Dr. Pavlov. “This animal will change everything we think about pairing conditioned stimulus (a bell) and an unconditioned stimulus (food) to produce a conditioned response (salivating). This conditioning is destined to become a classic. I can feel it.”

“So were not gonna eat him,” Seraphima asked? “OK. It’s borscht again.”



A Feline and Canine Entwine: Enter Zsa Zsa


Zsa Zsa dahling.

Budapest resident and future glamor gal Zsa Zsa Gabor, then an 18-year-old underemployed Hungarian ingénue, was working at the Budapest Hotel’s Pet Day Care Center where she regularly superintended Sadie and the Tramp’s visits. The middle Gabor sister chaperoned and fed them with great care; even going so far as to conduct her own matchmaking culinary experiment. Zsa Zsa prepared and fed them a big plate of pasta consisting of a single long strand of spaghetti. She gave each of them an opposite end to chow down on. As they hungrily slurped and gobbled the spaghetti from each end it was only a matter of time till Tramp’s slobbering jowls met Sadie’s delicate whiskers. And when they did, it was kismet (actually it was more like kiss-met). When Sadie and the Tramp got to the end of their ropes his snout met her nose and after a moment of recognition, they nuzzled like long lost Eskimos. After Zsa Zsa’s romantic dinner Sadie and the Tramp were inseparable.


And there they’d happily commune. In the pet parlor of the Budapest Hotel where they would frolic with unbridled glee and mutual acceptance. Sadie would overlook Tramp’s torrents of slobber and Tramp would forgive Sadie’s penchant for being both dead and alive. Evidently location indeterminacy was no barrier to Tramp’s passion, and pools of drool none to Sadie’s. It seems when love is your unconditioned stimulus, it conquers all.



Eva. Another glamorous Gabor.

Incidents and Anecdotes


And in a curious sisterly coincidence, Zsa Zsa’s younger sister Eva (of Green Acres fame) would go on to do the silky, exotic voice of the bougee cat Duchess in Disney’s The Aristocats.


There was a noteworthy incident at the Budapest Hotel’s Pet Day Care Center one day when Dr. Schrödinger went to pick up Sadie and couldn’t find her anywhere. He was wracked with anxiety until he saw her little eyes just peeking out over the ö in Schrödinger. So cute he thought – there she was, hiding in an umlaut. Who else but Sadie could cloak herself in a diacritical mark? Amazing! Sadie was eerily adept at quantum superposition. In fact, Dr. Sigmund Freud, who was attending the same conference as Drs. Pavlov and Schrödinger, heard of the cat’s disappearance and wryly observed, “While it is possible Sadie may have been hiding above the ö, sometimes an umlaut is just an umlaut.”  


While being interviewed by Popular Quantum Mechanics magazine, Dr. Schrödinger was asked about Sadie’s little nighttime outfit resting there on the bed. He glanced over at them and replied, “Oh those? Those are the cat’s pajamas.” He pawsed and continued, “It kinda hurts me to talk about the cat’s pajamas. In fact, me ow.”


In Pavlov’s It’s a Wonderful Life world, every time a bell rang, an angel started to salivate. In Schrödinger’s “Wes Anderson” world every time a cat disappeared you didn’t know for certain if it was dead or alive. Could two animals from such different backgrounds bond together without driving each other crazy? No wait, that was the premise for Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Nope, it wasn’t that either. Their story was the basis for the unlikely pairing of another more recent Eastern European romance: The Lady and the Trump.


Dr. Pavlov was a Nobel prize-winner and was celebrated for being a self-made man. He had no choice. His parents never had sex. As the time passed Dr. Pavlov grew fond of Dr. Schrödinger and would tease his colleague by peering into Sadie’s litter box and observing, “Look! It’s Schrödinger scat.”


Years later when Dr. Schrödinger was asked about Dr. Pavlov’s experiments he famously responded, “Pavlov? Pavlov? The name doesn’t ring a bell.”



They Really Did Live Happily Ever After


Sadie and the Tramp were by now deeply bonded and this intense affection was recognized by Drs. Schrödinger and Pavlov who agreed to keep them together. They would summer in Minsk and winter in Paris. And although a litter of offspring was out of the question, it never stopped them from trying.


It was brave of Sadie and the Tramp to express their cat/dog love at a time when the mixing of the species was frowned upon. There were laws against this kind of co-mingling – especially in 1930s Berlin and the Deep South.


There was something greater at work here between Sadie and the Tramp. Something trite but true – that love conquers all. Now that may be a hackneyed phrase, but it also has the added virtue of being true. And I’m not hiding behind hollow clichés. If you’re looking for me, I’m hiding behind the é in cliché. I’m in a really good position. You might even say I’m in a quantum superposition.

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