Tag Archives: cat cognition

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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

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Photo by Big Presh via Flickr/Creative Commons
Photo by Big Presh via Flickr/Creative Commons

I’ve previously blogged about musical animals, and many believe that musicality (at least to the extent we see in humans) is unique to humans. We love music so much that we seem very determined to try and see if other animals love it too. Music is commonly used as enrichment for captive animals, or music is forced upon other animals (for example, many folks who clean animal cages like to listen to music while doing so, and I know my kitties have to listen to a lot of punk rock, probably against their will!). But do animals LIKE music? A recent study, “Cats Prefer Species-Appropriate Music,” looked at whether cats enjoyed music that was designed to be “species-specific” in its frequency and other characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at what the research revealed! ...continue reading

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A new study looks at visual and olfactory cue preferences in cats

noseWe know that cats have an excellent sense of smell, and good vision for certain things (like prey moving along the horizon). They need this excellent smelling, seeing (and of course sensing with other organs and body parts, like detecting air movement with whiskers, and sensing pheromones with their Jacobsen’s organ) to hunt, find mates, and avoid danger. But do cats have a preferred sense they rely on? And are all cats the same in this preference?

...continue reading