Animals' respective levels of confidence in their different sensory abilities.

Sorry about the awkwardly worded title.

So, many people are good at mimicry. If I heard Jon Stewart on the radio doing a Bush impression, I might even think that it was Bush if I didn’t know I was listening to a comedy show. With this in mind, nobody believes their hearing or smell over their sight. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but it looks like an elephant, nobody will think it’s a duck.

Lately I’ve noticed that when I meow for fun at passing cats, they pause to look at me. It seems to take them a second to realize I’m not a cat. I realize this is far from a scientific example, but I think you can see the formation of my question. What sensory ability claims priority for animals’ cognitive recognition of objects, namely, other animals? If I trained a small dog to meow and poured eau de feline over it, would cats think it was one of their own? How about me? Would my large size let the cat out of the bag?

This sounds to me like a complicated question. What do y’all think?

I don’t know if a factual answer worthy of this forum actually exists, so I’ll give it my best guess.

Creatures probably prioritize input from their senses based on a lot of factors. If it looks and smells like a ham sandwich, but it sounds like a machine gun, who’s going to believe it’s actually a ham sandwich? Sight doesn’t necessarily dominate our sense priority list, but it’s the sense that we use the most when trying to figure out just what’s going on around us, so it’s usually prioritized higher.

So, I guess it’s situational. If a cat is on the prowl for a quick hookup, and something sounds like another cat close by, it might take the cat a second to realize that the noise it heard wasn’t actually another cat offering its booty, but a wierdo human. I bet if the cat was afraid of predators and some big goofy human meowed at it, it would speed off into the distance without a second of hesitation.

My cats will look at the TV when there is a cat food commercial with meowing sounds, and see an image of a cat. But they approach the screen and sniff it, and fail to get any cat smell, so they will then ignore it despite the sound & sight of a cat.

Same thing with mirrors – the sight of a cat looking at them & moving toward them is soon canceled out by the lack of smell.

So it seems that for cats the sense of smell is needed to confirm sight & hearing.

Maybe this would be better off in GD. I’ll notify a mod.

Not sure if this is in answer to the OP, but I think it is.

Some animals are mimics of other animals in order to get either food or protection. There are ant mimicking spiders, who mostly use the disguise as protection against their main predator - the birds. They hide in ant colonies, even if they don’t feed on their hosts. Some mimic by shape - birds can see well while most spiders and ants can’t. Some, who feed on the ants, mimic the ants movement to sneak up on them. Some mimic chemically - smelling like the ants whose colony they live in - the specific colony - not just the ant species in general. (Can give cites if required.) Other spiders give off the pheromones of female moths, for example, to attract the male moths to their fangs.

So the confidence of the hosts or prey in their own senses is being exploited.