I have two cats at home.
They’re mostly wonderful, except for when they’re terrible.
I think most cat owners know that their cats
are smart and affectionate
our cat Jasper, when I’m outside with him,
he’ll look at me, he’ll look at the wall,
he’ll look back at me, and if I bend over,
he jumps on my back and he jumps on the wall.
And so there’s this complex —
Even though he can’t talk to me, it’s very clear to me what he wants.
And it’s very clear to him how to communicate
what he wants with me.
I’m David Grimm.
I’m the online news editor at Science.
So for a long time scientists did not study
cats and dogs when it came to studying,
what we call, social cognition.
This is the idea of studying how cats and dogs
and other animals relate to us as human beings.
there was this idea that everything we’ve done over domestication
had sort of created this kind of fuzzy signal Whereas,
if you studied the mind of a chimpanzee or a crow,
you’re getting a purer signal, because this is
an animal that has not been bred or selected
to live with people in any way Now,
that all changed in 1998,
when two independent labs showed that dogs
could understand what we mean when we point at an object.
So if you point at an object… even a toddler
understands”Look at that thing.”
And when we do that with chimpanzees, they don’t understand that at all.
They have no idea what we’re doing.
But lo and behold in 1998,
a couple of labs showed that when they did that with dogs,
dogs looked at the object.
And this was really a shocker for the field.
So today, there are more than a dozen labs
around the world that study canine cognition.
And yet, there’s been almost nothing with cats.
Researchers have largely ignored cats while they’ve been focusing a lot
of energy on dogs.
one of the reasons that scientists avoid studying cats,
is that they’re very difficult to work with.
You bring a dog into a laboratory, and for the most part,
this dog wants to please you.
So taking them to a lab is not a big deal.
It’s pretty easy to work with dogs.
Cats are another story.
A lot of cats are just kept in the home
all the time, so taking them them to a
new environment is very scary for them.
There was this study in 2005 that’s showing
cats can do human pointing, but even
in that study
a lot of the cats dropped out of the study, which meant, they basically wouldn’t cooperate.
They either just left the room,
A lot of them just sort of walked
away from the testing site for the most part,
cats after a few trials,
they’ve had it, they’re done.
all of these problems made it very difficult to do these studies,
which is why even when this first study came
out in 2005, nobody really followed up on it,
including the lab that actually did the work.
And it wasn’t until about five or six years ago
that we’ve started to see this uptick again
in people starting to look at cats again in terms of social cognition.
Oregon State University They’re one of the big cat labs in the world,
and one of the things that they’re doing is really
studying this social connection that cats have with people One of the tests they do is called an attachment test.
And basically what this involves is,
the owner and the cat will go into a room,
so the cat’s kind of a little freaked out because they’re
in this room and they don’t know what’s going on.
And yes, their owner’s there, but whatever.
And then the owner leaves, and then the cat’s really freaked out,
right And the cats will tend to meow
a lot, and maybe turn and… Maybe go in circles,
almost if they’re kind of panicking.
And then the owner comes back into the room sits down on
the ground, and often the cat will come running back to
the owner, And then something very interesting happens, All of
a sudden they will leave the owner,
and they will start exploring the room So they’ll sniff out the corners.
Maybe there’s a toy on the floor, they’ll play with the toy.
普通人看完都会得出结论 “嗯 很明显
And the average person would look at and go, “ Well, clearly,
the cat doesn’t care about their owner.
Their owner’s there and all the cat wants
to do is explore the room.”
But it’s actually the opposite that’s true.
the cat has such a close bond with their owner
that they go, “ Okay, now my owner
is here, So now I’m free to do what
I like to do as a cat, which is
kind of go out and explore.”
They also do this test, which an Italian group pioneered basically,
what it involves is again, the cat and
the owner are in this white lab room.
And the researchers bring in this object,
it’s a fan with these streamers attached to it.
And then the researchers would turn the fanon.
So of course, this fan’s blowing, it’s making a lot of noise.
And cats will get, obviously, pretty freaked out about that.
And then what the owner does is, the owner is instructed to make nice with the fan,
“What a nice fan, what a lovely fan.”
“Do you wanna meet the fan?
Do you wanna touch the fan?
Do you wanna get to know the fan?”
And sometimes, the owner will actually go up and touch the fan.
And what’s really surprising, some cats will all of a sudden,
they kinda calm down,
they’ll approach the fan when the owner approaches the fan.
And I even saw in one situation where a cat went
right up to the fan and just laid down right in
front of the fan, which is kind of a remarkable…
This is an object that just a couple of minutes ago
that was scaring the stuffing out of them.
And all of a sudden they’re feeling comfortable now with it,
because they picked up on these emotional cues from their owner, like, “Oh,
this isn’t something I should be afraidof.”
And so all of these things, like following human gaze,
understanding our emotional states, show that cats,
very much like dogs, are very tuned into us,
which makes a lot of sense. Again,
we’re talking about creatures
that not only have to live in our homes,
but really have to anticipate, what do
we mean when we do things?
Are we angry at them?
Are we happy with them Do we want them to look at something?
Do we want them to do something?
Without them understanding that, it’s really… Would be fairly impossible
for us to have the kind of relationship we have with these animals otherwise.
So even though it looks like things
are starting to come together for cat cognition,
we’ve got a handful of labs around the world studying cats,
we’ve got papers coming out, So one of the big open questions
is whether this is the beginning of a movement,
or whether it’s gonna continue to be a very niche part of science
just because there’s only a few people
out there that are actually willing to work with cats?
Some of the things they’re interested in looking at is,
“Can cats categorize things?”
So we know that dogs can actually, after a little bit of trial and error,
figure out if they’re being shown a picture of a landscape
or a picture of another dog.
So you maybe show them a few pictures of lakes and mountains,
and then you show them pictures of other dogs,
And it turns out dogs can do that.
And so now one researcheractually wants to try that
with cats to see if cats can also categorize things.
No pun intended, I guess.
So cats have this reputation of being aloof and anti-social
and even dumb when it comes to things like, “Oh, cats can’t do tricks,” and all this other stuff.
But what this research is showing is
that whatever tricks dogs able to pick up over the course of evolution,
cats also picked up a lot of those tricks.
It’s just that we haven’t spent enough time looking for them,
and we haven’t find a great way to study cats
And once we do,
likely we’re gonna see that there’s a lot of complexity going on in the cat brain,
and there’s a lot of complexity in the relationship between cats and people.
We just need to do the studies to find that out.