Vol 8, Issue 1, February 2021

Cats (Felis catus) Show No Avoidance of People Who Behave Negatively to Their Owner


Chijiiwa, H., Takagi, S., Arahori, M., Anderson, J. R., Fujita, K., & Kuroshima, H. (2021). Cats (Felis catus) show no avoidance of people who behave negatively to their owner. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(1), 23-35. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Humans evaluate others based on interactions between third parties, even when those interactions are of no direct relevance to the observer. Such social evaluation is not limited to humans. We previously showed that dogs avoided a person who behaved negatively to their owner (Chijiiwa et al., 2015). Here, we explored whether domestic cats, another common companion animal, similarly evaluate humans based on third-party interactions. We used the same procedure that we used with dogs: cats watched as their owner first tried unsuccessfully to open a transparent container to take out an object, and then requested help from a person sitting nearby. In the Helper condition, this second person (helper) helped the owner to open the container, whereas in the Non-Helper condition the actor refused to help, turning away instead. A third, passive (neutral) person sat on the other side of the owner in both conditions. After the interaction, the actor and the neutral person each offered a piece of food to the cat, and we recorded which person the cat took food from. Cats completed four trials and showed neither a preference for the helper nor avoidance of the non-helper. We consider that cats might not possess the same social evaluation abilities as dogs, at least in this situation, because unlike the latter, they have not been selected to cooperate with humans. However, further work on cats’ social evaluation capacities needs to consider ecological validity, notably with regard to the species’ sociality.


Cats, Social evaluation, Third-party interaction, Social cognition, Cat-human relationship, Domesticated animals