Can a cat see itself in a mirror?

This cute video proves that cats cannot see themselves in a mirror. They see another cat.

Does this mean that cats are unable to be self aware? This cute Siamese type cat (probably a Balinese) has great fun looking at his reflection in the large mirror but he is not seeing himself in my opinion. If you disagree please tell me.

I can tell this because he is treating the cat in the mirror as another cat by adopting a defensive position with an arched back and prancing around sideways on to look bigger. This is classic kitten play. This is how kittens play with other cats and dogs. I suppose it is self-training for the time when he or she will genuinely have to take up a defensively aggressive stance when confronting and invading, alien cat.

For me this proves that cats are not self aware or self-conscious. I think you’ll find that cat experts agree. This is not to say all animals are unable to be self aware. Dr John Bradshaw, BA PhD a well-known cat expert and the author of Cat Sense says:

“So far, science has yet to reveal any evidence for self-awareness in cats, or even dogs..”

6 thoughts on “Can a cat see itself in a mirror?”

  1. Adam’s Task Calling Animals By Name is a good easy to read book that talks about an animals intelligence based on the species and how that intelligence evolves based on survival. Scientific methods fail to answer the deeper question. Do they have a soul. And those of us that love them know they do.

  2. I love science because it helps explain the real world and has the humility to know our understanding continues to grow. I’ve thought about self-perception in cats for a long time. I think they do have it and here’s why. When we get to know them well, we can ascertain what’s going on in them more and more, and logically speaking that doesn’t mean that in the beginning there wasn’t anything going on. So it’s our interpretation as much as anything. Example: cats also learn to understand our behavior through experience and to foretell it based on our tone and even facial expressions. They use that as a guide for their behavior, in order to get along with us (or in spite of us). When I see Einstein chase Calie and I say his name in a stern tone, he knows that I’m thinking “Stop that”. He knows that I perceive him and therefore his existence and behavior. He not only has a sense of self as I see him, but of himself as he must truly be in reality… in addition to all the psychological/sociological stuff going on (we don’t exist in a vacuum). Often science reduces things to that to rule out other factors, like native habitat, which is where I think it fails us. So… I dunno, sorry, lecture over.

    • Thanks for your excellent thoughts Albert. As I say in the post, currently, I don’t believe cats do have self-perception but as Bradshaw says, science does not have evidence at present which does not mean they will not find evidence in the future.

    • P.S. I have no idea why the software deemed that your comment was spam which is what it did because it held it up for moderation. It must have been a glitch. PoC runs ant-spam software. Millions of comments to PoC are spam. The internet is awash with spammers.

  3. Yeah well, we all know that cats apparently “perceive” their reflection as something other than a reflection, not to pick nits. It’s not the final test as to whether they are self aware, I think. It’s more of a “magic” trick on them, like we are sometimes fooled by illusion or slight of hand. And I agree it’s another statement as to how well we can ask that question and test for it. We also have knowledge of how a mirror is made, and how TV and radio work. It’s more the difference in how living things live, and we shouldn’t be so hung up on how similar they are to us, which (I think) can lead to speciesism and bigotry. Too often I see people mistreating animals just because they’re different, or because they can. Sorry, but yesterday I witnessed a little girls screaming like a monster and chasing the ducks behind my house as her mother was nonchalantly talking on her cell phone and walking her foo-foo dog, for 15 minutes. We humans also fail at self-perception. I mean, if they knew what they looked like to me…

  4. False. Kitten was very aware of her image in a mirror and preened there often. My mare Nikki would also watch herself in the mirror in the riding arena.
    Most animals are initially scared then curious about the odd critter that has no smell and they can never touch. Most lose interest over time.
    Scientists often end up with massive amounts of egg on their face. Few experiments on animal behavior are based on that animals natural behavior and very little concession is made for the varying intelligence within a breed or sciences poor understanding or social evolution. For actual reading you can google the 100th monkey.


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