Friday 2 September 2022

Test finds that domestic cats might experience the emotion of jealousy

I'm going to refer to a test carried out at Kyoto University to see whether domestic cats can experience the emotion of jealousy. They describe jealousy as a "second-order emotion". I take that to mean a higher emotion which humans experience but there is a question mark as to whether animals experience it although a basic form of jealousy has been detected in domestic dogs.

RELATED: in a previous post the conclusion was that cats feel jealousy but not grief: Cats feel jealousy but not grief.

In this test with cats there were 52 participants taken from Japanese households or cat caf├ęs.

They conducted a simple test by recording the behaviour of the cats while they saw their owner petting a social object which might be a rival and which in this instance was a realistic-looking soft toy cat. They compared the cats' reaction when a non-cat object was petted by the cats' owner (a cushion) and when a non-cat owner petted the toy-cat.

I wonder whether that was a wise decision to use a toy because it is plausible to suggest that domestic cats can tell the difference between a soft toy cat and a real cat.

Anyway, when a cat's owner petted a soft-toy cat, they found that household pets reacted more intensely towards the soft-toy cat. There were no other behaviours and they don't describe what 'reacted more intensely' means in the summary. When the soft cushion was petted by the owner there was no reaction and when the soft-cat toy was petted by non-owners there was no reaction.

They were unable to come to firm conclusions about the existence of jealousy in domestic cats. Jealousy is an emotion which is expressed in the context of a close relationship and cats can have close relationships both with other cats and people. Therefore, the question as to whether they have the emotion of jealousy is a fair one.

The study pointed to a distinct possibility that domestic cats can feel the emotion jealousy but further work is required.

The study is called Domestic cats' reactions to their owner and an unknown individual petting a potential rival.

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