3-month-old Babies Can Tell the Difference between Dogs and Cats

3-month-old babies can distinguish between cats and dogs by looking at the silhouette of the head of a cat and dog.

I’m not sure how useful this information is to the general population of people but nonetheless it is quite interesting.

A study1 concluded that although very young babies can distinguish between cats and dogs when looking at a silhouette of the head of the cat or dog, they were unable to distinguish between these species of animal when looking at the body of the animal.

The obvious conclusion is that the body of a cat and dog is quite similar, while the profile and outline of the head of these two species of animal is quite different or sufficiently different for a very young baby to pick it out.

I suppose the information might be useful to mothers who are unsure whether the baby can tell the difference between their pet dog and cat. A mother might wish to ensure that their baby reacts differently to their family dog than they do to their cat. If so, then the mother will know that their baby can at least tell the difference between the two!

Three months of age this is a very formative time for a child. The knowledge that they can positively distinguish between the two species (“form categorical representations”) may help in parenting.

  1. Study: Perceptual Categorization of Cat and Dog Silhouettes by 3- to 4-Month-Old Infants.
  2. Associated page: the different types of cat breed appearance – body types.
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I'm pretty sure about this, assuming that the baby has actually seen the two entities in the flesh.
    Babies recognize their mother's image and voice from birth; but, at around 3 months, they're able to show that recognition.
    I've always thought that baby development should be measured in weeks as opposed to months. Every week, until around 2 y/o, there are monumental changes.
    We measure young cats in weeks, don't we?

  • How on earth do they know that? lol
    A 3 month old baby can't even say mama never mind cat and dog.

    • I suppose it is about imagery and how even very young babies can pick up things that perhaps some parents don't realise. I thought it was quite interesting and it looks at the cat from a different perspective.

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