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Man's other best friend: domestic cats (F. silvestris catus) and their discrimination of human emotion cues

By M. Galvan, J. Vonk

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The ability of domestic dogs (C. lupus famaliaris) to follow and attend to human emotion expressions is well documented. It is unknown whether domestic cats (F. silvestris catus) possess similar abilities. Because cats belong to the same order (Carnivora), but did not evolve to live in complex social groups, research with them enables us to tease apart the influence of social structure versus domestication processes on the capacity to recognize human communicative cues, such as emotions. Two experiments were conducted to determine the extent to which domestic cats discriminate between human emotion cues. The first experiment presented cats with facial and postural cues of happiness and anger from both an unfamiliar experimenter and their familiar owner in the absence of vocal cues. The second experiment presented cats with vocal cues of human emotion through a positively or negatively charged conversation between an experimenter and owner. Domestic cats were only modestly sensitive to emotion, particularly when displayed by their owner, suggesting that a history of human interaction alone may not be sufficient to shape such abilities in domestic cats.

Publication Title Animal Cognition
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 193-205
ISBN/ISSN 1435-9448
DOI 10.1007/s10071-015-0927-4
Language English
Author Address Department of Psychology, Oakland University, 2200 N Squirrel Rd., Rochester, MI 48309,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Behavioral research
  4. Carnivores
  5. Cats
  6. Emotions
  7. Humans
  8. Learning
  9. Mammals
  10. Men
  11. Pets and companion animals
  12. Primates
  13. Psychiatry and psychology
  14. Relationships
  15. Social psychology and social anthropology
  16. vertebrates
  17. Zoology