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Assessing cats’ (Felis catus) sensitivity to human pointing gestures
journal contributionposted on 2023-09-01, 15:02 authored by Margaret Mäses, Claudia AF Wascher
A wide range of non-human animal species have been shown to be able to respond to human referential signals, such as pointing gestures. The aim of the present study was to replicate previous findings showing cats to be sensitive to human pointing cues (Miklósi et al. 2005). In our study, we presented two types of human pointing gestures - momentary ipsilateral (direct pointing) and momentary cross-body pointing. We tested nine rescue cats in a two-way object choice task. On a group level, the success rate of cats was 74.4 percent. Cats performed significantly above chance level in both the ipsilateral and cross-body pointing condition. Trial number, rewarded side and type of gesture did not significantly affect the cats’ performances in the experiment. On an individual level, 5 out of 7 cats who completed 20 trials, performed significantly above chance level. Two cats only completed 10 trials. One of them succeeded in 8, the other in 6 of these. The results of our study replicate previous findings of cats being responsive to human ipsilateral pointing cues and add additional knowledge about their ability to follow cross-body pointing cues. Our results highlight that a domestic species, socialised in a group setting, may possess heterospecific communication skills. Further research is needed to exclude alternative parsimonious explanations, such as local and stimulus enhancement.
Publication titleJournal of Comparative Psychology
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
- Accepted version