Animal Cognition

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 739–743

Domestic cats (Felis catus) do not show causal understanding in a string-pulling task


  • Emma Whitt
    • School of PsychologyUniversity of Nottingham
  • Marie Douglas
    • School of PsychologyUniversity of Exeter
    • PsychologyCanterbury Christ Church University
  • Ian Hocking
    • PsychologyCanterbury Christ Church University
Short Communication

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-009-0228-x

Cite this article as:
Whitt, E., Douglas, M., Osthaus, B. et al. Anim Cogn (2009) 12: 739. doi:10.1007/s10071-009-0228-x


This study explored how domestic cats perform in a horizontal string-pulling task to determine whether they understand this case of physical causality. Fifteen cats were tested on their ability to retrieve an unreachable food treat in three different set-ups: (a) a single baited string, (b) two parallel strings where only one was baited and (c) two crossed strings where only one was baited. All cats succeeded at pulling a single string to obtain a treat, but none consistently chose the correct string when two strings were parallel. When tested with two crossed strings one cat chose the wrong string consistently and all others performed at chance level. There was no evidence that cats understand the function of the strings or their physical causality.


Domestic catsCognitionMeans–endString pulling

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009