Research: cats can imitate humans

Researchers from the United States have shown that cats, under certain conditions, can imitate humans. However, ethologists were skeptical about this experiment – according to them, this behavior could not be innate but trained.

Researchers have shown that cats can mimic the actions of their owners under controlled scientific conditions. This ability has been noticed in only a few creatures, and this discovery suggests that imitation in mammalian evolution appeared relatively early.

“It’s really exciting,” says Christina Vitale, Animal Behavior Specialist at Unity College, USA. – Many people think that cats are loners and antisocial animals. However, this study confirms that they have the ability to observe and learn from people”.

Claudia Fugazza, an ethologist at the University of Atves Laurent, has studied the ability of dogs to learn using “do as I do” training for nearly a decade. In this case, the animal must copy the behavior and receive a reward for it. Over time, the animal learns that the command “do as I do” means “copy my actions.” This approach can be used to test whether animals can actually imitate and copy actions they have never done before.

In sixteen studies, cats accurately copied the actions of their owners 81% of the time. For example, a cat could touch the box first with its face, then with its paw, learning the same behavior in humans. This means that the cats were able to transfer the body parts of the owner onto their bodies.

According to the researchers, so far only dolphins, parrots, monkeys, and killer whales have proven the ability to imitate humans. According to them, cats with the same abilities can be widespread in the animal kingdom, developing in the early stages of animal evolution. However, in order to confirm their theory, scientists need to do more research.

But Claudio Tenney, an ethologist at the University of Tübingen, is not impressed with the study’s findings. It is impossible to tell from this study, he says, whether cats have an innate ability to imitate humans, or whether intense “do as I do” training has given them this ability. “We can train bears to ride motorcycles, but that doesn’t mean bears can ride motorcycles on their own.”