We tested companion cats and dogs in similar indoor conditions using identical procedures in the classic detour task around a V-shaped transparent wire-mesh fence. Besides the control group, we used two types of laser light-pointing demonstration (moving around the fence, or pointing straight at the reward). We found that dogs reached the food reward faster than cats; across consecutive trials, only the dogs showed improvement in their speed and dogs continued to use the same side for detouring after a preceding successful attempt, while cats chose the side for detouring irrespective of their previous successful trials. In addition, ‘demonstrating’ a detour with the laser did not influence the speed or direction of the detour of the subjects; and dogs looked back to their owner more frequently than the cats did. We discuss the possibility that for dogs, detouring along a transparent obstacle represents a more problematic task than for cats; therefore, dogs strongly rely on their previous experiences. This is the first time that cats were successfully tested in this detour paradigm in direct comparison with dogs. The results are relevant from the aspect of testing cognitive performance in companion cats, which are known to be notoriously reluctant to engage with novel experimental situations.
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