In a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour, researchers asked how well dogs, cats and kittens were able to perform in a series of complex tasks in a variety of environments.
In the first task, dogs and kittens had to perform three different tasks simultaneously: walk, run and jump.
In addition, the researchers gave each animal a treat at random.
Then, they filmed the dogs, and asked them to watch as they performed the tasks.
They found that dogs had an advantage in both the jump and walk tasks: the animals were able and willing to perform them in a way that was both easier and more efficient than their peers.
Cats, on the other hand, performed much worse than they did in the jump task: they struggled with the task, often falling over or losing their balance, and sometimes fell over themselves.
Cats did not fare much better on the walk task, either.
“This suggests that cats are better at walking than dogs,” said lead researcher James Campbell of the University of Queensland in Australia.
“If you look at the cats, they’re much more successful in the walk than the dogs are.
They have a much higher percentage of successful jumps, and they’re able to maintain a high level of balance.”
“So cats are good at walking but not so good at running,” Campbell added.
“So maybe cats need a more complex task environment.”
The study used video footage to demonstrate that cats were able, while not necessarily at the top of the food chain, to perform better in a specific environment, while dogs and dogs-only kittens were not.
And, the study showed, that they were not just better at the jump than their counterparts, they were also able to complete the task in a different way.
In a second experiment, the dogs and cats were tested in a maze.
They had to navigate the maze in an area that contained a number of identical coloured boxes, one for each of the three animals in the cage.
This maze area contained only two different boxes per animal: a white box and a grey box.
The white box contained a treat, while the grey box contained no food.
The dogs and the cats had to complete a sequence of four identical trials.
The first trial was a trial in which the box contained an empty box, and the second was a single-trial trial in the same location.
The black box contained food, while all of the other boxes contained no treats.
At the end of the trials, the box containing the empty box was rewarded.
However, at the end, the black box had to be removed from the maze and placed on the ground.
“We’re able for the cats to do this because they have a better spatial ability than the dog,” Campbell said.
“They have a sense of direction.”
In a third experiment, researchers tested the cats on a range of tasks, including the jump, run, and climb tasks.
In each task, they gave each cat a treat and told the cat to stand in front of a mirror.
The cats were then given the choice to jump from the top or the bottom of the box.
“When they got the choice, they ran away from the box,” Campbell explained.
“The first time they ran they were less willing to run, but the second time they did they jumped.
So they were able [to jump] in a more efficient way than their siblings.”
This may explain why cats are able to jump more than dogs.
“Cats are able because they’ve got better spatial reasoning and that helps them to make more efficient choices,” Campbell continued.
“And so they’ve done better than the other species because they’re good at spatial reasoning.
They’re able and they do it in a better way.”
Campbell and his team found that, although cats were not always better at jumping than dogs, the differences between the two were more pronounced in tasks where cats were given a reward.
“It seems cats are more successful than dogs in a task that’s more difficult, and that’s in a situation where there are lots of different colours,” Campbell noted.
“In a situation like that, it may be that cats have a stronger sense of spatial reasoning than dogs.”
“It’s a really intriguing idea that cats can jump, but they’re not necessarily as good as dogs in the task at hand,” Campbell concluded.
Campbell’s team is now working to understand how cats manage their spatial abilities.
The next step is to see if this is true in other species.
In another study, Campbell’s group is now looking at whether cats can do the same kind of cognitive tasks that dogs do.
They hope to follow up on this study in the near future.
“A lot of research into the cognitive abilities of animals is based on looking at their behaviour, which is the only way we can really understand the cognitive processes involved,” Campbell told New Scientist.
“But we’re hoping to be able to actually test if cats