Animal minds

Coffee! But who said monkeys were smart?

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This from ScienceNewsDaily about “grooming” behaviour in primates:

‘Our computer model GrooFiWorld shows that complex calculating behaviour is completely unnecessary. We can add the simple rule to the existing DomWorld model that an individual will begin grooming another when it expects to lose from it upon attacking the other. This in itself leads to many of the complex patterns of friendly behaviour observed in real primates.’ In the DomWorld model, individuals group together and compete with their neighbours. (Primates social intelligence overestimated, ScienceNewsDaily, January 11, 2010)

Okay, I wouldn’t give you fifteen cents for the computer model. This much I know is true. I have seen cats washing each others’ faces in the middle of the night. That doesn’t mean the cats are especially intelligent. Yes, cats are definitely more intelligent than snails, but everyone knows that.

Cats like to wash themselves, and cannot conveniently wash their own faces. All attempts I have seen so far have been clumsy and disgusting, so co-operating with another cat works much better.

In the instances I observed, the ritual had absolutely nothing to do with attacking the other cat. Both cats were parked resolutely near the heater in a tiny apartment and very unlikely to start a fight. They just wanted to settle down to a long feline nap in a warm environment, but wanted to get their faces washed first.

3 Replies to “Coffee! But who said monkeys were smart?

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    Heinrich says:

    Yes, cats are definitely more intelligent than snails, but everyone knows that.

    My wife will dispute that – she’s not terribly impressed with the cognitive abilities of my cat.

    Cats like to wash themselves, and cannot conveniently wash their own faces.

    Hm. Whatever mental deficiencies of my cat, he most certainly can wash his face. He licks his forearm, and then wipes that across his face.

    Cats do have social interactions, so face washing may be part of this – I’m not a real cat psychologist or sociologist, though, so I can’t comment further without more study or actually watching cats for a bit.

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    O'Leary says:

    In my observation of cats, the tongue method is vastly superior to the forepaw method, but it requires the co-operation of another cat.

    That is not as difficult as it may first appear, when several cats are huddled around the rads of a heater.

    It is worth remembering that most cats had their faces vigorously licked by their mother when they were at an impressionable stage of life. So the practice would not be interpreted as a form of aggression.

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