Does my cat recognize himself in a mirror?

Does my cat recognize himself in a mirror?

Our animals have a different perception of the world around them than we do, since they do not use their senses in the same way. What about their own image? If you live with a cat, you have certainly already seen it confront itself with a mirror. Do our domestic felines have the ability to recognize themselves in it? Let’s see this in this article.

Different behaviors of cats in front of a mirror

Not all felines behave in the same way when they are in front of a mirror. This depends first of all on the size of the mirror, but also on its location: a small round mirror in the bathroom or a large full-length mirror in the entrance will not necessarily have the same effect and will not be subject to the cat’s gaze in the same way.

Cats generally have 3 reactions to a mirror.

  • Indifference. Some will walk past the object without even glancing at it and will not pay attention to it.
  • Curiosity. Other felines will be rather intrigued: they will look and observe what they see in the mirror, sometimes with a little suspicion and making very slow gestures.
  • Interaction. Finally, some cats see mirrors as calls to play or fight: they will then touch them with their paws, approach them suddenly, meow, or even hiss when they find themselves facing the object.

A specific test to check if an animal is aware of its reflection

The science that studies the behavior of animal species is called “ethology.” It is a fascinating science, constantly evolving and rich in discoveries.

THE mirror testis part of this field of study. It allows to estimate the perception of oneself and was launched in the 70s by the American psychologist Gordon G. Gallup. It consisted of placing a kind of spot serving as a colored marking on the heads of the animals, then observing their reaction in a mirror. Completely odorless, this spot could therefore only be noticed by the animal if it saw it in the mirror and was able to know that it was its own reflection. If the animal reacts by trying to touch the spot, it is because it recognizes itself.

The interpretation of the results has, however, been criticized as reductive. Indeed, some animals use senses other than sight to recognize each other. For a time, the gorilla was considered an animal that could not pass the test. One theory suggests that this is because these animals avoid looking each other straight in the eye, because this could be interpreted as aggression by their peers. Similarly, this test is not suitable for animals such as the mole with its poorly developed vision, or the bat, which uses ultrasound to understand its environment.

The size of the mirror must also be adapted to that of the animal for the test to be credible: it is difficult to use the same mirror for a cat as for an elephant.

Does the cat see its own reflection? What about other animals?

In theory, Cats, like many other animals, are not able to see their reflection in a mirror.. They would therefore consider it to be another cat, which explains their sometimes surprising behavior. Their reaction seems in fact similar to that which they would have when crossing paths with a fellow creature.. It therefore depends mainly on the cat’s personality: if it maintains a calm behavior, this will rather induce curiosity or indifference; if it adopts an aggressive behavior, this will induce distrust and fear. The reaction of a feline to its own reflection can also vary according to its life experiences: if it is used to being around cats or meeting them because it has access to the outdoors, its reaction will be different from that of a cat that has not been in contact with other felines in adulthood.

Dogs, for their part, would tend to behave with more indifference, since they use their sense of smell more to analyze their environment. The reflection in the mirror does not generate any odor, so it does not make them reactive.

Only some animals are actually able to recognize their reflection in the mirror and have passed the Gordon G. Gallup test. This is the case:

  • of some apes such as chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos;
  • marine mammals such as dolphins and orcas;
  • elephants;
  • birds such as magpies or African grey parrots;
  • of fish like the manta ray.

Note that humans would only be able to recognize their reflection in a mirror from the age of 18 months.

But not recognizing one’s own image is not a sign of lack of intelligence: it is only a different perception of the environment. Moreover, Self-awareness is more than just recognizing your reflection in a mirror.. Our cats are well aware of being and living.

How do cats see?

Ethology therefore allows us, among other things, to better learn about our feline companions. Cats do not only use their predatory vision to understand the world. Other senses, such as hearing and smell, are essential to them and allow them to perceive elements that we humans do not see.. Cats, for example, have the ability to sense our emotions, which are expressed through the production of pheromones. Our body language and the tone of our voice can also give them clues about our state of mind. Cats would also recognize their humans mainly by their smells and not only by their appearance. Felines also use their whiskers or vibrissae, which are sensitive to touch.

According to one theory, cats see few colors. For many years, a popular belief claimed that felines only saw in black and white. In reality, they perceive many different shades of gray. They are also able to see shades of blue, green and yellow, across a broad spectrum. Red and orange, on the other hand, are less distinguished colors and much duller for their eyes. Overall, cats tend to see colors in a pastel way, therefore less intensely than humans.

His vision would also be significantly less sharp than ours.. It would only be accurate up close. Due to its hunting instincts, proximity vision is more important for the cat than distance vision. On the other hand, cats are particularly sensitive to movements, even those imperceptible to us. This is indeed an asset for hunting prey.

These differences are explained by their cones, which are only present in number of 2 in the eye (compared to 3 in humans): they are what determine the perception of colors and sharpness.

But the cat’s vision has other advantages: it can, for example, perceive ultraviolet and would be much more panoramic, therefore wider.

Moreover, cats are nyctalopic that is, they are able to see in the dark, and therefore move around without any problem at night (but not in total darkness).

For this, they use:

  • their adjustable pupils, allowing more or less light to pass through the eye to adapt to the environment (you will notice that their pupils are generally very dilated in low light, but very fine in the case of an intense light source);
  • the presence of numerous rods in their retinas, these cells sensitive to light;
  • a reflective layer behind the retina, which optimizes light detection.

Our cats remain fascinating animals. Despite numerous studies about them, There are still many gray areas and mysteries surrounding their behavior and perception.. And perhaps it is these secrets that are part of their charm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *