A spatial learning task was used to examine cognitive function in 36 cats (1.0-15.1 years of age), with a control for motor function. No significant age-related decline in cognitive function was found. Initial selection of 75 cats showed no significant age differences between young (0-3 years), adult (3.1-8 years), senior (8.1-12 years) and geriatric cats (12.1-15.1 years) locating food rewards in a holeboard box. Consequently, the senior and geriatric groups were combined because of a concern that age effects may not be seen in the 8-12-year-old cats. Differences between these three age groups of cats to learn the position of three food rewards in an array of 30 otherwise empty (food-scented) positions were non-significant. Differences between age groups remained non-significant for retrieval of rewards from these three positions even when masked with a tissue paper cover. There was no significant effect of age on speed of reaching each criterion. Although the total number of errors was similar, there was a significantly increased proportion of working memory errors (when the cat returned to a previously baited position) and decreased proportion of reference memory errors (when the cat put a nose or paw in an empty position) with increasing age. There was no effect of age on motor function, with success in a plank-crossing test related only to plank width. These findings support previous work suggesting that the cat differs from other species in the way in which it demonstrates age-related declines in cognitive function. Further studies using different testing methodologies are required to assess other cognitive functions that may decline with age.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Melton Mowbray, Leics LE14 4RT, UK. email@example.com|
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