It will cause outrage among some cat owners, but research suggests the pets are not as clever as some humans assumed – or at least they think in a way we have yet to fathom.
Psychology lecturer Britta Osthaus says cats do not understand cause-and-effect connections between objects. She tested the thought processes of 15 of them by attaching fish and biscuit treats to one end of a piece of string, placing them under a plastic screen to make them unreachable and then seeing if the cats could work out that pulling on the other end of the string would pull the treat closer.
They were tested in three ways, using a single baited string, two parallel strings where only one was baited, and two crossed strings where only one was baited.
The single string test proved no problem, but unlike dogs (which Osthaus has previously tested) no cat consistently chose correctly between two parallel strings. With two crossed strings, one cat always made the wrong choice and others succeeded no more than might be expected by chance.
Update: The Cat Lobby spinners are fast. From a reader:
All right, I just can’t let this go. Any cat owner can tell you that cats are much more interested in playing with string than they are with what’s attached to the other end. Food as an incentive for a cat? Get serious. The cats have staff to deal with food issues. They were just playing and the scientist is the one that isn’t smart enough to know the difference.