Cats parallel great apes and corvids in motor self-regulation, but size matters

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


We tested domestic cats in the cylinder task, and found that they perform better ifthe cylinder is larger. We also found that their highest performance parallels that ofgreat apes and corvids, which are known as the best performing animals on this task.The cylinder task is used to test animals’ motor self-regulation. Recently a large-scalestudy tested 36 species on the task and found that absolute brain size correlatedwith the performance; with great apes as top performers. Another study showedthat corvids perform as good as great apes despite having smaller absolute brainsize. We questioned whether average brained animals have as poor motor self-regulation as suggested, as it appears highly maladaptive; instead the results couldbe a reflection of the sensorimotor set-up of different species in relation to thematerials used. No cats have been tested on the task before.Eight adult domestic cats participated in four versions of the task. We manipulatedthe size and materials, with two large (18.5 cm diameter) and two small (9.5 cmdiameter) cylinders, out of glass and plastic respectively. Each condition comprisedof two phases. First, a subject learned to retrieve a reward from an opaque cylinder(5 trials), and after a 24-hour delay was tested on a transparent cylinder (10 trials). Aretrieval of the reward without touching the cylinder’s front counted as a successfultrial.The success rate differed between conditions, and was highest (98,75) for the “smallplastic” condition. There was a significant main effect of the cylinder size on thesuccess rate [F(1,7)=64.06, p <0.001]. We discuss these results, as they call intoquestion whether the large-scale study took into account the sensorimotorarchitecture of each species, and more importantly, whether the task alwaysmeasures motor self-regulation.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Behavioral Sciences Biology
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch
EventBehaviour 2017 - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 2017 Jul 302017 Aug 4


ConferenceBehaviour 2017
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