Sep 26, 2020

Kitty see, kitty do: cat imitates human, in first scientific demonstration of behavior

Posted by in categories: evolution, neuroscience

In 16 subsequent trials, Ebisu accurately copied her owner more than 81% of the time, the team reports this month in (see video, above). The fact that the cat used her paw and face to touch the box when her owner used her hand and face, respectively, indicates she was able to “map” her owner’s body parts onto her own anatomy, the team says.

Fugazza says only dolphins, parrots, apes, and killer whales have so far been shown to imitate people. Cats having the same ability, she says, suggests it may be widespread in the animal kingdom, evolving early in animal evolution. And even though the study was conducted on a single cat, Fugazza thinks it’s likely that most cats can imitate people. “I don’t think Ebisu was a genius.”

But Claudio Tennie, an ethologist at the University of Tübingen who has studied cognition in dogs and primates, is not impressed. He says it’s impossible to tell from the study whether cats have an innate ability to imitate humans, or whether the intensive “Do as I do” training gave them the skill. “We can train bears to ride motorcycles,” he says. “That doesn’t mean bears ride motorcycles.”

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