Skip to main content

Do cats learn from other cats?

Mum taught me - Photo by yajico
Yes, cats are "excellent observational learners". They can learn by watching another cat do something and they do this quite quickly. Kittens learn fastest when they watch their mother. This form of learning usually applies to learning hunting skills. The mother starts by bring dead prey back to the nest (den) and then live prey when the kittens are about four weeks of age. Thereafter the kittens might accompany their mother hunting and learn from that experience. If a kitten's mother is present when her kittens are being introduced and socialized to people, they learn more quickly. Kittens also learn social skills from observation. (1)

As humans are surrogate mothers, cats learn from us sometimes. An examples is opening doors. There are many examples of cats opening doors by depressing a door handle having jumped up to it. I remember a video of a cat watching TV. The program showed a boxing match. The cat was waving his arms around as if boxing. Individual cats might learn from watching TV.

Observational learning of social skills is important in groups as communication between cats is important for the well being and survival of the group. Cats learning from other cats is an efficient way to problem solve.

Cats who live together often teach each other certain forms of behavior. A typical example in a household is a new cat learning how to use the cat flap (door) by watching an existing cat use it. My older cat has taught my younger boy cat that the garden is safe to visit and certain parts are good places to rest and watch.

Although mother cat provides the main source of learning, other relatives and particularly fathers play a role. In colonies of ferals cats and multicat households learning social skills from parents and indeed other cats is important for the harmony of the colony.

Some commentators say that learning by watching is not so much about copying mother doing something but more about acting "as a stimulus for the cat to focus attention on the problems..." (2)

See: Cat Training Fundamentals | Cat Clicker Training


(1) The Welfare of Cats by Irene Rochlitz - ISBN-13: 978-1402061431

(2) The Cat It's Behavior, Nutrition & Health - ISBN 978-0-8138-0331-9


Popular posts from this blog

Cat Ear Mites

Brown gunge. Yes, I know this is a ferret! It does show the build up of dark brown to black ear wax caused by the presence of the cat ear mites in the outer ear canal. This parasite is not restricted to the domestic cat, which makes this photo valid and a useful illustration (I was unable to find a suitable photo of a cat with the condition). Photo Stacy Lynn Baum under a creative commons license. Ear mites (minute crab like creatures) are one of the causes of inflammation of the outer ear canal (scientific term for this inflammation is Otitis externa ). The outer ear canal is the tube that runs from outside to the ear drum (the pathway for the reception of sound), which can be seen when looking at the ear. Otitis externa affects humans and often swimmers as it is called "swimmer's ear" in humans. This YouTube video show ear mites under a microscope. They are not actually in the ear in this video. There are many possible causes of Otitis externa in c

Feline Mange

I'll write about three types of feline mange (a) feline scabies or head mange (b) demodectic mange and (c) sarcoptic mange. The source material is from Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook - the best on the market . Generalised feline mange? Puerto Rico - Photo by Gotham City Lost And Found Feline Scabies - head mange Head mange or feline scabies, is a fairly rare condition in cats, which is caused by the Notoedres mite (head mite) that only reproduces on cats. The female mites burrow a few millimeters (that is a lot) into the skin around the head, and neck to lay eggs, which hatch and lay their own eggs. Their presence and activities causes intense itching that in turn causes the cat to scratch. The scratching will obviously be noticed and it will cause the skin to become red, scratched and worse infected. Symptoms: hair loss and scabs, thick wrinkled skin and grey/yellow crusts form plus the symptoms of scratching. Feline mange (head mange) is contagious and tr

Cat Anatomy

Cat Anatomy - Photo by Curious Expeditions . The picture above was taken at Wax Anatomical Models at La Specola in Florence, Italy. The photograph is published under a creative commons license kindly granted by the photographer. I am sorry if it is a bit gruesome. It is pretty well all I could find as an illustration that was licensed for publication. Cat Anatomy is a very wide ranging subject. The anatomy of a cat is very similar to human anatomy. If you were writing a biology book for students of biology you would go through every part of the a cat's anatomy in some detail. It would be similar to writing a book about the human anatomy. It would be a thick book and pretty boring for your average internet surfer. So, how do you limit such a big subject and make this post meaningful? The answer I think lies in doing two things: Having a quick general look at cat anatomy - an overview and; Focusing on the areas of cat anatomy that are particular to the cat and of parti