The present study will be the first to examine domestic cats’
capacity to form reputations about friendly and aggressive humans based on both
direct interactions and indirect observations. Cats from the same household
will form a yoked pair, one cat will have separate interactions with the friendly and the
aggressive experimenters, while their housemate observes the interactions
through a two-way mirror. After multiple interactions/observations with each experimenter, both cats’ positive and negative behaviors when
exposed to the human experimenters behaving neutrally will be recorded. During these experimental sessions, the friendly and aggressive experimenters will not engage with the cats. This is to ensure that behaviors elicited by the cats are a result of their prior experiences or observations with each experimenter, and not a response to the experimenters' current behavior. Should
cats form reputations and/or take indirect experiences into account, more
negative behaviors should be displayed when exposed to the aggressive
experimenter behaving neutrally, and they should display more positive behaviors when exposed to the friendly experimenter behaving neutrally. If the cats attribute reputations based on indirect observations,
a ghost control condition will be run, where experimenters engage with an
inanimate object instead of another cat. This is to determine whether the cats
rely on information obtained from the human-cat interaction itself, or if they
are solely using the friendly or aggressive experimenters’ behaviors to form
reputations about these individuals.
This project has not yet shared any protocols.