This experiment is part of the Cats Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Reputation Formation in Domestic Cats (Felis silvestris catus)

Oakland University
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
DOI: 10.18258/7011
Grant: CatsGrant: Cats
Raised of $1,000 Goal
Funded on 6/18/16
Successfully Funded
  • $1,000
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 6/18/16



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.