Cats and Dogs May Have Similar Mental Ability, Study Finds

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. invalidate / ɪnˈvæl ɪˌdeɪt / (v) – to prove something wrong

    Another researcher invalidated some findings in her study.

  2. enthusiast / ɛnˈθu ziˌæst / (n) – someone who is passionate or dedicated to something

    He became a music enthusiast because of his mother’s influence.

  3. canine / ˈkeɪ naɪn / (n) – a dog (formal)

    The dog show featured different types of canines.

  4. interval / ˈɪn tər vəl / (n) – the pause between two periods of time or events

    Storms in the area typically have a one-month interval.

  5. gesture / ˈdʒɛs tʃər / (n) – communication by moving a body part

    A common gesture that shows approval is a thumbs up.


Read the text below.

A recent study in Japan proved that cats may have the same mental ability as dogs, invalidating the idea that one is smarter than the other.

Pet enthusiasts usually have the impression that dogs are smarter than cats since canines show the ability to recall certain information and obey simple commands. However, scientists have recently discovered that both animals possess the ability to recall details of past experiences, also called episodic memories. Episodic memory has been observed only in humans and very few animals.

In a study published in Behavioural Processes, scientists from Japan conducted an experiment that involved 49 cats. Each cat was assigned to its own food bowl, which the scientists filled with food. After a 15-minute interval, the cats were given a second meal. The scientists observed that the cats remembered which food bowls were previously assigned to them. The same experiment was previously conducted on dogs, and the scientists reported that they showed similar behaviors.

Analysis on the study showed that both cats and dogs have the ability to recall episodic memories. This ability also allows cats and dogs to respond to human gestures and facial expressions in different ways, depending on how they previously encountered it.

According to Saho Takagi, one of the researchers, episodic memory is related to the ability to process one’s own thoughts and feelings. Being able to process episodic memories implies that dogs and cats may be aware of how their surroundings affect them. Because of this, Takagi believes that the study is valuable for improving the relationship between pet owners and their cats or dogs.


Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• How can pet owners use episodic memories to improve their relationship with their pets?
• What is the importance of understanding how one’s pets think? Discuss.

Discussion B

• In your opinion, why do some people like having pets?
• What are the challenges of having a pet?