Tests reveal that cats visually recognise their ‘handler’ less well than dogs

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This article is about the effectiveness with which cats and dogs visual recognise people they know (their ‘handler’ in the tests) and animals they know. It is based on a scientific study.

Caveat: this is one study. I am discussing it as it has potential to interest some people but I am not convinced by the results. The study tested four situations but I have selected three of them as the fourth did not make sense to me. Personally, my cat can recognise me at up to about 100 yards distance but then he and I have been glued together for about eight years!

Results – three tests

1. Testing the recognition of the face of a handler compared to recognition of the face of an unfamiliar person. Result: Dogs chose the face of their handler at 88.2% [of the time], while the cats chose their handler at 54.5% – note: this is the big difference. For the other tests there was little difference. They don’t try and explain the difference in their summary.

2. Testing the recognition of the face of an animal that lived with them in the group versus an unfamiliar animal. Result: Dogs chose the face of the familiar dog at 85.1% [of the time] and the cats chose the face of the familiar cat at 90.7%.

3. Testing the recognition of a learned natural scene versus an unfamiliar natural scene. Result: The dogs chose the familiar scene at 89.0% [of the time] and the cats chose the familiar scene at 85.8%. 

Overall, the only significant difference between the performance of the dogs and cats was in the recognition of the face of their handlers.

Study: Dogs, but not cats, can readily recognize the face of their handler. In other words the dogs were better than cats at visually recognizing their handler.

Methods

Shortly after weaning, twelve pure-breed beagles and twelve domestic cats were each assigned a different human handler who worked with the animal for two hours each day for six months….At about 9 months of age, each animal was tested…

The scientists

Study: Dogs, but not cats, can readily recognize the face of their handler. Link: https://doi.org/10.1167/5.8.49

2 thoughts on “Tests reveal that cats visually recognise their ‘handler’ less well than dogs”

  1. I am not buying this either. Cats definitely can easily recognize people from distances. I have observed this myself a bunch of times, even with cats that are not actually mine, but from around the neighborhood, even strays or feral ones who have little contact with people, and who know I am friendly and give them food or treats. They see me from a long distance and quickly approach me. They definitely don’t do that with people they are not familiar with.

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