In the early 1900s, scientific attention to animal cognition was focused on the performance of one animal, Clever Hans the horse. His owner, a mathematics teacher, claimed that Hans could perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and work with fractions. Indeed, Hans could answer questions correctly even if his owner was not present, which led an investigative panel to conclude that this was not a case of fraud (NYTimes, 1904; Pfungst, 1911). Several months later a psychologist was able to determine that Hans could not do mathematics, but instead was sensitive to human cues of correct answers (Allen & Bekoff, 1999; Pfungst, 1911). This planted a seed of doubt in psychological explorations of the numerical abilities of non-human animals; however, these doubts have since been challenged again and again! It is clear that while non-human animals’ cognitive abilities are clearly different than those of humans, these differences, to quote Darwin, are “of degree and not of kind."
Numeracy is the broad range of numerical applications used by humans and other animals. At its most basic level, numeracy is expressed in the ability to discriminate between the size, amount or other aspects of quantity of different objects (Devlin, 2000). Quantity discrimination has been studied in animals from fish to birds to primates, and most animals show some level of it. Many studies of numeracy have been done on carnivores, with canines overly represented. It’s time to give the kitties some scientific attention. An amount that they can detect. ...continue reading
If not, now is the perfect time to learn more!
I've joined forces with my dear friend and fellow cat consultant, Ingrid Johnson of Fundamentally Feline to bring you a new web resource: Food Puzzles for Cats!
We show you how to get started - or how to keep challenging your cat if you already use food puzzles with your cat! We'll be describing and reviewing different types food puzzles and giving you links to DIY projects and videos about food puzzles!
We'll also be on Facebook and Twitter...check us out!
I'm finally realizing how busy getting a PhD makes you! I'm wrapping up a semi-failed experiment and I'm also about to head to the East Coast for a few days of fun and work in Atlanta, and then off to Melbourne, Florida for the Comparative Cognition Society Conference where I'll be giving a short talk on some of my squirrel research.
But I haven't been too busy to chat with folks about my favorite thing...cats.
I was ABSOLUTELY thrilled to talk with Sadie Dingfelder at the Washington Post about her experience clicker training her cat to sit on her lap. Was the loving response fake because she gave him treats for being loving? NO! I don't know why humans get so hung up on "bribing" cats to do things when we "bribe" humans to do things we want all the time! Alexandra Horowitz also weighs in, just in case you thought dogs were not bribe-able. And why do people treat reinforcing behavior you like as if it were a bad thing?
For the record, I love dark chocolate, especially the Alter Eco Quinoa bar.
Do you love cat videos? Me too, as long as there are no scary cucumbers. I spoke with Laura Drucker at Tails Pet Magazine about why we love cat videos.
I also spoke with Dan Nosowitz at Atlas Obscura not too long ago about how to talk to your cat (last year I spoke to him about whether squirrels are smart). Some great quotes from my favorite cat scientist, John Bradshaw, as well!