BUDAPEST, Hungary - Animal researchers in Hungary say cats can follow a person's line of sight and interpret human behavior from that signal. Researchers at a Budapest university tested 41 cats in their labs and owners' homes to watch their interactions with humans.
Tests were performed with two bowls, one with food, one without. The cats had to pick which bowl had food by following a person's gaze. The lead researcher said the cats performed better than if they picked the bowls randomly. Overall, cats chose the right bowl 70 percent of the time.
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"In general we found that cats are very good in following human gazing signals independently of the type of the signals ... So whether we do a sustained gaze when we don't take off our eyes from the target or we do a momentary gaze when we just look shortly on the target and then turn back to the cat so independently of the difficulty or the level of difficulty of these gazing signals, cats are very good in following it," said Peter Pongracz, a researcher in the Animal Behavior Department of ELTE University.
Animal behavior researchers don't usually examine cats, as testing them is far more challenging than dogs. "Cats learn spontaneously that where humans look at, it can be important ... And this is a very interesting thing because then you could ask that, OK, if it is not innate but the cats learn it, could any other animal learn it?" said Pongracz.