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Cats understand human glances

author Lucy Byrne | Interesting information

Researchers at a university in Budapest tested 41 cats in their natural environment so a change in place does not stress the examined animals and distort the results. The aim of the research was to determine whether the interaction between cats and humans will show similar reactions as they have so far only experienced in dogs - that they can understand and follow human glances. 

The test was simple. The cat was to choose which of two bowls to run to based on the glance of a person, whether long or fleeting. One was empty and the other was full of food. Yet by the time the cat could head for one of them, the person's gaze was once again directed directly at the animal. 

The cats did very well in determining and remembering where the person looked. They chose the right bowl in 70% of cases, which is more than if they had chosen purely randomly. Moreover, sound stimuli in the form of commands had no effect on the result, even though cats are able to recognize the voice of their master and who they are talking to.  

Cat research is not conducted as often as with dogs, as cats don't cooperate as readily as dogs. This is evidenced by the fact that the research began with 85 cats, but 44 of them showed no interest in it, or became bored during the experiment and refused to cooperate. Despite this, the researchers managed to prove that they watch and interpret human glances. This type of nonverbal communication is called ostensive behavior, and the ability to read it was previously only found in companion dogs. The question is whether cats learn this ability during their lifetime, or whether this function has developed over 10,000 years of domestication. 

Have you ever noticed your cat responding to your glance? The research showed that cats understand that the place a person is looking at may be important. When I think about it, I almost always hear meowing when I look at the refrigerator. Is my cat trying to say something? :)