Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Emerson Bowers

Committee Member

Michael H Ferkin

Committee Member

David A Freeman

Committee Member

Michael L Kennedy

Committee Member

Lyndsey M Pierson


The domestic feline has lived among humans for thousands of years, dispersing across the world as they provided companionship along trade routes. But, as this relationship has persisted, the cognition of these pets is seldom studied compared to other companion animals. Cats have become the second largest population of companion animals following dogs. Much of what is perceived about the cognition of these animals is anecdotal; empirical evidence is needed. These studies examine three aims to enrich the growing literature on feline cognition in the areas of quantity discrimination, episodic memory, and individual recognition. A total of 130 domestic cats, including shelter cats and pet cats, were recruited for these studies. Aim one saw cats presented with quantity discrimination tasks that were performed using food items divided into 8 ratios. The quantity initially approached and time spent investigating both quantities was recorded for analysis. Aim two examined episodic memory in cats by observing the time cats spent interacting with 3 bowls that contained food items, inedible objects, and an empty container during an exposure phase. During the test phase, the containers were presented with all previous contents removed. The time cats spent investigating during the exposure phase and test phase were recorded for analysis. Aim three used a habituation/dishabituation paradigm to examine the ability of cats to recognize novel humans using olfaction. During habituation, the cats were acclimated to the scent of a human donor. In the dishabituation phase, the cats were exposed to the scent of the now familiar human and the scent of a novel donor. It was assumed that cat recognized the scent of the familiar human if more time was spent investigating the scent of the novel donor. The results show support for abilities to discriminate quantities and recall episodic memories. However, there is a lack of support for the recognition of unfamiliar humans using chemical cues. Future studies may examine sex differences in discrimination of quantities and individuals, as well as develop models to examine the length of memory retention at times above 12 hours. Increasing the understanding of feline cognition may lend to the development of species-specific methods that support the care and welfare of these animals, finding mechanisms involved in the development of behavioral issues, and less invasive and safe handling alternatives for stressed individuals in clinical, shelter, and home settings.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access