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"I can haz emoshuns?": understanding anthropomorphosis of cats among internet users

By Derek Foster, Conor Linehan, Shaun Lawson, Daniel Mills, Sarah Ellis, Helen Zulch

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The attribution of human-like traits to non-human animals, termed anthropomorphism, can lead to misunderstandings of animal behaviour, which can result in risks to both human and animal wellbeing and welfare. In this paper, we, during an inter-disciplinary collaboration between social computing and animal behaviour researchers, investigated whether a simple image-tagging application could improve the understanding of how people ascribe intentions and emotions to the behaviour of their domestic cats. A web-based application, Tagpuss, was developed to present casual users with photographs drawn from a database of 1631 images of domestic cats and asked them to ascribe an emotion to the cat portrayed in the image. Over five thousand people actively participated in the study in the space of four weeks, generating over 50,000 tags. Results indicate Tagpuss can be used to identify cat behaviours that lay-people find difficult to distinguish. This highlights further expert scientific exploration that focuses on educating cat owners to identify possible problems with their cat’s welfare.


Katie Carroll

Date 2011
Publisher University of Lincoln
Location of Publication Lincoln, United Kingdom, LN6 7TS
Conference Title 3rd International Conference on Social Computing
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal consciousness
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animals in culture
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Anthropomorphism
  7. Cats
  8. Computers
  9. Emotions
  10. Internet
  11. Mammals
  12. Pets and companion animals
  13. technology