Animal Cognition

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1043–1047 | Cite as

There’s no ball without noise: cats’ prediction of an object from noise

  • Saho TakagiEmail author
  • Minori Arahori
  • Hitomi Chijiiwa
  • Mana Tsuzuki
  • Yuya Hataji
  • Kazuo Fujita
Short Communication


We used an expectancy violation procedure to ask whether cats could use a causal rule to infer the presence of an unseen object on hearing the noise it made inside a container and predict its appearance when the container was turned over. We presented cats with either an object dropping out of an opaque container or no object dropping out (turning-over phase) after producing either a rattling sound by shaking the container with the object inside, or no sound (shaking phase). The cats were then allowed to freely explore the experimental environment (exploration phase). The relation between the sound and the object matched with physical laws in half of the trials (congruent condition) and mismatched in the other half (incongruent condition). Inferring the presence of an unseen object from the noise was predicted to result in longer looking time in the incongruent condition. The prediction was supported by the cats’ behavior during the turning-over phase. The results suggest that cats used a causal-logical understanding of auditory stimuli to predict the appearance of invisible objects. The ecology of cats’ natural hunting style may favor the ability for inference on the basis of sounds.


Cats Felis catus Inference Causal-logical understanding Expectancy violation method 



This study was financially supported by the Grant-in-aide for Scientific Research No. 25240020 to Kazuo Fujita from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The authors acknowledge with thanks all owners and cats who volunteered in this study. The authors also wish to thank James R. Anderson for editing the article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

This study adhered to the ethical guidelines of Kyoto University, and was approved by the Animal Experiments Committee of the Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University.

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


  1. Bradshaw JWS, Brown SL, Casey RA (2012) The behaviour of the domestic cat, 2nd edn. CAB International, WallingfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Call J (2004) Inferences about the location of food in the great apes (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo pygmaeus). J Comp Psychol 118:232–241CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Core Team R (2015) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  4. Crouch JE (1969) Text atlas of cat anatomy. Lea & Febiger, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  5. D’Amato MR, Salmon DP (1982) Tune discrimination in monkeys (Cebus apella) and in rats. Anim Learn Behav 10:126–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Grastyán E, Vereczkei L (1974) Effects of spatial separation of the conditioned signal from the reinforcement: a demonstration of the conditioned character of the orienting response or the orientational character of conditioning. Behav Biol 10:121–146CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Heffner RS, Heffner HE (1985) Hearing range of the domestic cat. Hear Res 19:85–88CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Hood BM, Hauser MD, Anderson L, Santos L (1999) Gravity biases in a non-human primate? Dev Sci 2:35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Maille A, Roeder JJ (2012) Inferences about the location of food in lemurs (Eulemur macaco and Eulemur fulvus): a comparison with apes and monkeys. Anim Cogn 15:1075–1083CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Osthaus B, Slater AM, Lea SEG (2003) Can dogs defy gravity? A comparison with the human infant and a non-human primate. Dev Sci 6:489–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Plotnik JM, Shaw RC, Brubaker DL, Tiller LN, Clayton NS (2014) Thinking with their trunks: elephants use smell but not sound to locate food and exclude non rewarding alternatives. Anim Behav 88:91–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Schmitt V, Fischer J (2009) Inferential reasoning and modality dependent discrimination learning in olive baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis). J Comp Psychol 123:316–325CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Takagi S, Chijiiwa H, Arahori M, Tsuzuki M, Hyuga A, Fujita K (2015) Do cats (Felis catus) predict the presence of an invisible object from sound? J Vet Behav 10:407–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Turner DC, Meister O (1988) Hunting behaviour of the domestic cat. In: Turner DC, Bateson P (eds) The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Whitt E, Douglas M, Osthaus B, Hocking I (2009) Domestic cats (Felis catus) do not show causal understanding in a string-pulling task. Anim Cogn 12:739–743CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saho Takagi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Minori Arahori
    • 1
  • Hitomi Chijiiwa
    • 1
  • Mana Tsuzuki
    • 1
  • Yuya Hataji
    • 1
  • Kazuo Fujita
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Graduate School of LettersKyoto UniversitySakyo, KyotoJapan

Personalised recommendations