Cats are aloof, frown-prone creatures that spend much of their time plotting various ways to murder things. They come across as relatively intelligent and independent, but it’s often thought by researchers that dogs are actually more intelligent, particularly when comparing relative brain sizes with cats.
A new study in the journal Behavioral Processes, however, suggests that cats are indeed just as clever as their canine counterparts – at least when it comes to how they handle memory.
First off, a little introduction to something called “episodic memory.” This type of mental recall is related to autobiographical events – times, places, emotions, events, and so on – which is accompanied by context, including perspective, geographic locations, other people’s input, and so on.
Not just involving a recounting of events, however, episodic memory also adds in the individual’s own perspective on how things played out and everything associated with it. This means that each memory is completely unique to each individual, even if others were there experiencing the very same event.
Any animal with the ability to process this memory type (among others) is considered have an advanced form of cognition. Humans have it, plenty of other primates have it, and it’s been confirmed that dogs have it too.
Until now, it hadn’t been confirmed whether or not cats have it – perhaps because cats are rather bad at both paying attention and cooperating in any way whatsoever. This new study, led by researchers at Kyoto University, took 49 domestic cats and decided to look into it.
Using a series of food bowls, the team allowed the cats to eat from a few before taking them out of the room for a 15-minute interval. Based on their behavior when they were allowed back into the rooms, it was clear that the cats remembered how much they had eaten from various bowls, and which they had eaten from.
They revisited sources of food in the room that, upon second viewing, had been moved elsewhere by the researchers, implying that they remembered where food initially was. Essentially, they were seeming to recall the room and how it had changed because of them and behaved accordingly. The cats seemed not to need to investigate the room as if they had seen it for the first time.
Granted, it’s not the most groundbreaking study, but it finally confirms that cats have the same type of episodic memory that dogs have. In this regard, then, cats are at least as smart as dogs.
Overall, though, the jury is still out – even if, according to the same researchers, cats have a grasp of the laws of physics.
[H/T: BBC News]