Physical understanding from sound in domestic cats (felis catus) (#634)
It would be beneficial to animals’ survival if they can infer invisible things from indirect clues such as odor and sounds of a predator or conspecifics’ responses to it.
Inferential ability has been studies in various animal species, but very few studies used cats. We investigated whether cats could recognize an invisible object in an opaque container by making use of the association between movement of the container and corresponding sounds. We conducted two experiments at the cat owner’s house or at the cat café, where the visitors enjoy interactions with cats. After observing an experimenter shaking an opaque container in front of the subjects for 15-s (observation phase), the cats freely explored the environment for 15-s (response phase). Experiment 1 tested 3 conditions. The first was Contingent noise condition, in which the object inside made a rattling noise upon being shaken. The second was “Irrelevant noise” condition, in which white noise was played upon shaking. The third was the No noise condition. Experiment 2 tested “Non-contingent noise” condition, instead of “Irrelevant noise” condition, in which the rattling noise and movement of the container failed to synchronize. In both experiments, cats looked at the container for longer duration in Contingent noise condition than in other conditions. These results suggest that cats may have used the causal-logical understanding of auditory stimulus to recognize invisible objects. This ability may be related to ecological background of cats’ hunting style.