Efficacy of learning in novel task acquisition in cats: a pilot study. — ASN Events

Efficacy of learning in novel task acquisition in cats: a pilot study. (#616)

Erin K Willson 1 , Rachael B Stratton 1 , Charlotte F Bolwell 1 , Kevin J Stafford 1
  1. Institute of Veterinary, Animal & Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Training cats using positive reinforcement methods is a useful tool for improving the human animal bond, treating behaviour problems as well as teaching novel tasks.  In part one of the present study, three cats were assessed for extinction to a conditioned stimulus, and in part two of the study we attempted to train nine cats to nose touch a target using one of three positive reinforcement methods.  The three positive reinforcement methods included training the novel task by using a primary reinforcer, a bridging stimulus and a secondary reinforcer.  The efficacy of the positive reinforcement method was assessed by the number of trials, and length of time it took to achieve the task.  The secondary reinforced group was not successful in achieving the novel task, where as both the primary reinforced group and bridging stimulus group successfully achieved the task.  There were significant time differences between the two successful groups; the primary reinforced group acquired the task quicker than the bridging stimulus group.  However, there were not significant differences in the number of trials it took the successful groups to acquire the task.  Utilizing primary reinforcement training in cats may be more effective than using a bridging stimulus or a secondary reinforcer when comparing the time taken to achieve a novel task.