Experiment: I heard a rumour that tying a sock around the belly of a cat renders it unable to keep its balance. I volunteered the services of Tortfeasor Brocciflower, the larger of my two cats, to test the hypothesis
Process: Tried numerous socks, but Tortsy is too fat for most of them. Finally, my large green hiking socks proved large enough. Tortfeasor was lying on the bed, so I walked up, wrapped the sock around him, tied it, and stood him up. I then talked around calling him. He walked a few steps, and promptly fell over to his side. Continued attempts got him to stand up again and try to walk, with the same resumts. Eventually he stopped trying to walk. I thus reproduced the experiment as described to me.
Variation: I introduced a strong desire to walk by walking to the food cabinet and shaking the bag. This always gets Tortsy excited, and this time was no exception. He soon came walking, sock around his stomach, with little apparent difficulty. I conclude that the sock is not disrupting the balance of the cat, but is rather doing something else. I suspect that it either feels funny, and the way cats respond to that is to roll over (perhaps thinking it is play), or that it restricts the ability of the cat to breathe. It is possible that it smooshes the stomach of the cat and induces mild nausea. I am not interested in making my cat further uncomfortable, so I untie him and let him go. He promptly heads to the food bowl to eat (he is *always* eating), so I discount nausea.
Conclusion: Further research is necessary to determine the precise mechanism by which tying a sock around the waist causes cats to tend to fall over when trying to walk. Initial indications seem to suggest that the effect either can be overcome if the cat really wants to or that it is entirely for willful reasons, despite initial appearances.