Still, there may be hope. As scientists begin to experiment with new ways to study animal intelligence - from eye-tracking technology to fMRI machines - they may yet find a way to peek inside the feline mind. Brian Hare, for one, is optimistic. Though he's one of the world's foremost experts on canine cognition, he says he wouldn't be surprised if researchers start studying cats next. "Before 1998, no one thought that dogs were worth looking at, and now look at how much they've shown us," he tells me. "I think cats are going to be the next frontier."
The feline mind may be a black box, but it's a box worth exploring.