At “Animals and abstraction: Reflections on Vincent Torley’s thoughts,” commenter Charles
Do cats explore for the sake of exploring (curioisity)? Or are they just reconnoitering for food, danger, shelter, sex, and if so, is that a form of learning? asks.
Good questions. My impression is that cats are not generally lifelong learners. They are very curious when young, and learn almost everything they need to know in the first year or two. Once they have learned a way of life, they stick to it.
There can be a comical aspect to that. A vet once told me that it is wise to neuter a tomcat as young as he can safely sustain the operation. If one waits a few years and he learns how to mate, he may continue the famously tiresome tomcat behaviour patterns anyway.
As that vet put it, “No. Nothing happens, of course. But he doesn’t know that.”
Cats also do not usually learn much from each other. Or anyway, they don’t try to. Apparently, neither do the famously intelligent ravens and crows. This points to a different style of learning from the usual human style.
Probably, very little abstraction is involved, rather the acquisition of a systematic pattern of behaviour that produces a reward or some kind of relief. It can be a complex pattern, to be sure. But it is not a pattern that is acquired in the same way that a human would learn to solve math problems or study the classics.
For one thing, all the problems the cat is trying to solve are concrete anyway. He just isn’t interested in ideas. Hope this is any help.
See also: Animal minds: In search of the minimal self
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