Cats/Dogs know what's in the mirror?

I’m almost positive my cat’s know they are looking at themselves in the mirror. One of my cats had hair on her back sticking up, she seemed to catch it in the mirror and fixed it. They also see you in the mirror’s reflection. Anyway, just to be sure, I thought I would ask you. Do cats and dogs know what they are looking at?

I think dogs don’t really understand two-dimensional images, such as that reflected in a mirror.

One of my dogs, for example, growls at his reflection, then gets more pissed off when it growls back.

The other one never seems to notice.

My dad’s dog used to bark constantly at his reflection in his water bowl.

They had to get him a black bowl. :slight_smile:

Mirrors, and for that matter, televisions seem to elicit different reactions from different individual animals. In my experience most dogs and cats act almost as if they’re unaware of movements on a tv. But some do seem to watch it and who knows what they think of it.

Mirrors are similar. I believe more of both catch the movement in the mirror (mostly when head on - i.e., when the image appears most like the rest of 3D life) and seem to largely understand it as a reflection, although I’ve seen a cat hiss at its reflection (I had a crow attacking its own reflection in the mirrored glass of my office for a couple of weeks). But there are some that seem unaware of the reflection in the mirror.

All of my cats seem to understand perfectly well what a mirror is - a lot may depend on how much exposure an individual animal has to mirrors in their everyday life. My cats will actually use a mirror to watch whatever is going on behind them.

I have a large mirror on top of my dresser, alongside my bed. Quiet often I will be quietly reading a book in bed and look up to see one of the cats sitting on the dresser facing the mirror and watching me - we make eye contact in the mirror. If I make any sort of inviting gesture, they will turn and jump onto the bed for a cuddle.

I’ve started watching them because several people have tried to tell me that cats don’t recognize themselves in the mirror and/or never realize it is just a reflection, and I would be willing to take my cats into any laboratory and prove THAT assumption wrong.

Televisions are different - it has to be a pretty clear picture that involves lots of movement to interest the cats. One night two of my cats spent 45 minutes sitting on a chair in front of the TV watching a Discovery program about wolves! And if you check around you will find dozens of ‘cat videos’ for sale that are designed to appeal to cats - people buy them to amuse and occupy their cats when they are left alone a lot.
Dogs, now - dogs are just dumb. :slight_smile:

It’s funny how they all have such different reactions.

I had a dog that thought the mirror was a window. He’d catch sight of himself in the mirror and his heckles would go up and he’d snarl. Then he’d run out of the bedroom, and into the room on the other side of that wall looking for the dog. When he couldn’t find it, he’d come back and check the mirror/window again. Hours of entertainment.

My mother’s dog will watch the tv, and will snarl at dogs on TV, but has never been interested in mirrors. We don’t know if she can’t see her reflection in the mirror, or if she knows it’s her.

My kitten watches TV and can see herself in the mirror. The first time she did, she danced the full length of the mirror with her back arched and her heckles up (quite amusing on a ten week old kitten). She’s realised the cat in the mirror won’t hurt her, and now she ignores it. I don’t know if she’s realised that it’s her, or if she’s just decided that it’s not a threat.

It’s weird, they look me in the eye through the mirrors reflection. The cats have swatted things on TV, but never the mirror. They see food in the mirror, (my one cat has an eating disorder and always eats), and they turn around to go and eat it. not in the reflection, but in real life. I still don’t know if that proves that they know what they are looking at… but it helps

My cats are much the same as coosa’s. They look into the mirror to see behind them. They don’t seem to notice themselves. My cats do watch the computer, especially when I move the cursor around. And from time to time I see them watch the TV. Once I was watching a nature show about birds, and one of my cats began to paw at the TV, and then ran behind the TV, as if looking for the birds there. I had a dog for a short time and she was pretty interested in TV shows about animals as well.

I have several dogs…

One ignores mirrors. She’s not very intelligent, I think she just doesn’t bother with anything not affecting her. She’ll stare at a blank wall or the carpet for an hour sometimes, like she had a stroke, it’s weird and creepy.

The other girl half-ignores them. She doesn’t understand reflections in glass (f’instance at night, my reflection in a window across the room and she’ll rush to go attack). Yet mirrors she doesn’t care about. I think she realized that windows show things to care about, and when they reflect things they’re real things. All I can figure at least. She’s our guard-dachshund.

Thor, the manly chihuahua, is spastic. I have a full-length mirror in my room and at night he’ll wake up and spot himself and go nuts and scare me to death. But other times he’s had a bit of fluff on him (he’s staticky sometimes), on his back where he couldn’t see. But he looked in the mirror, then turned to eat the fluff off his back. He hadn’t noticed until then.

The reactors thus will usually know its themselves, except in certain circumstances (windows, when it’s dark and they can’t make out things well enough). Although when they were puppies they were nuts at them, they figured out it was them. Now I just have to get them to realize that when I wear my hardhat, or my gas mask, or any other hat, it’s really me, not a monster (of course that entails stop jumping out and going RAR at them when I have them on…).

I remember seeing a tv show a while ago about primate intelligence. My memory is a bit foggy, but it was proven that only great apes and humans are capable of recognizing the reflection as their own. Other species perceive it as another individual.

On an interesting note, only gorillas failed the mirror test, but only because they never look at each other in the eyes. When researchers used a video camera and a screen, they eventually recognized that the thing on tv was themselves.

I tried finding some cites on google, and came up with a few, among which this article from Scientific American:

(bolding mine.)

So if you think your cat or dog recognizes itself in the mirror, you might just be anthropomorphising a bit.

Whats anthropomorphis…?

I looked it up but it’s not there.

I don’t get why a bird will fly into a mirror. You’d think that even if they thought there was a whole 'nother room in there, they would at least try to avoid hitting the other bird.

Anthropomorizin’ is humanizin’. :slight_smile: Seeing human qualities in non-human things. Still, you think we’s anthropomorphizing our critters, explain how they’ll look in the mirror, then eat fluff off their back/lick their fur back flat.

Applying human characteristics to non-human things without justification. Pet owners often do it. It’s usually all in the owner’s mind.

I certainly recall that recognising yourself in the mirror is applied as a test of sentient consciousness. To do it you must be aware of ‘self’. I think dogs, cats, and most animals fail this, as do very young children.

I don’t know…

I’m 85% sure that they know of their reflection… The one thing the really convinced me is when I put food down while the cat was looking at me in the mirror. My cat also begs for food all the time when I’m around, and will look me in the eye threw my mirror and still meow at me. However, there’s a part of me that thinks they know they are looking at one person if they see you in the reflection and in front of the mirror… but it’s not as big a connection as we might think. They look at you and make eye contact, but don’t have the ability to “notice” that’s it’s an image of you on one side. That goes the other way around too, maybe (after they get use to the mirror) they don’t think it’s a “portal to another dimension.” Basically… it could be a little bit of both, they recognize things in the mirror, but don’t even try to understand that it’s a reflection. They just sort of, accept it and don’t really have the power or patients to try and figure out what or why it is. I DO think they know that the things (including themselves) in the mirror are “real-time”. I wounder if they recognize their own colors and markings in the mirror… I mean, I would think that my cat knows what to expect when she turns around to groom her tail. If my cat found a sticky-note stuck to her tail, she would understand it’s something foreign… so I wounder if they can tell it’s them in the mirror, I bet they can.

On a nearby college campus is a lifesize statue of a dog. My dog had walked by it about a hundred times without reacting. Basically, she treated it like the block of stone it is. But the 101st time, she treated it like a dog, growling, tail upright. Go figure.

You have no idea how I hate to base an argument on fuzzy memories of a tv show. Gawd, a tv show!

But anyway, in the show, it took chimps a while to figure that the thing in the mirror was them. And then, they became completely insane. They started feeling themselves, making faces, etc. All the while it seemed they might be thinking “I’m that ugly? No way!”

So, no, I think it’s highly unlikely that a cat has any notion whatsoever about its markings.

Research seems to show that animals other than great apes or humans either pay no attention to mirrors, or see the image as a “window.” Which would explain the staring.

I think cats might be surprised by the fact they can see someone they can’t smell.

But an image in a mirror is 3D, isn’t it?

I don’t know… They don’t stare at it… and I really think the food thing convinced me. Maybe it’s just hard for me to think like a cat or dog. I admit I might be wrong, but can anyone really claim to know without a doubt, and prove it?

What I ment to say about the markings was, I think as a whole picture (not just concentrating on a single mark on their tail) they might know what they are looking at.

Or perhaps our domesticated animals are getting more intelligent because of their association with humans and some cats and dogs are able to recognize themselves in the mirror. I’ve often wondered if our pets are much more intelligent (in the human sense) than their ancestors even as they’re losing their natural abilities.

friedo: Just imagine how funny it would’ve been had they gotten him a water bowl that had a picture of dog food on it!