Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cats Social Learning

The well known video of a cat copying boxers on television is an example of cat social learning through observation in the domestic human environment. The experts in the video don't mention this and don't make comment on why this is happening.

Cats are first class observational learners. Young cats learn from watching mother and preferably other relatives. They can learn skills that were not used by ancestors; in other words entirely new skills by copying (Chester 1969 and other studies). The classic cases of observational learning are kittens and cubs going out with mom on their first hunting trips. Before that the mother (the queen) brings dead prey back to the den or nest. The next stage is to bring back live prey at about 4 weeks of age for feral cats. When live prey is released in the den the mother catches the prey and thereby shows her offspring how it is done.

The kittens practice what they have learned under mother's supervision. In studies it was found that kittens are more receptive to socialization to humans and other animals when mother is present, thus verifying the importance of her role in kittens learning new skills.

As mentioned, relatives of kittens play a role too and father cats play their part in teaching and protecting offspring.

Group hunting of larger than normal prey by feral cats can take place, it seems.  The kill is shared. It is surmised that this is a learned skill through observation.

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