How Cats Point — If You’re 
Paying Attention


When people (and chimpanzees) want to draw your attention to something, they point with a finger. But what if you’re a species that doesn’t have hands per se? If you’re a cat, you use your eyes, looking successively back and forth at the object and the person whose attention you want to get. Researchers made the finding in a study they published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Cats put into a room with a container of treats were more apt to go back and forth between looking at the treats and looking at their caregiver if the top of the treat jar was sealed rather than left open. Presumably, it was their way of saying, “Help me. I want that and can’t get to it myself.”

The cats were more apt to try to get their caretaker’s attention with their eyes if the person was attentive rather than not paying attention. In other words, it appears they know when it’s worth trying to engage; they have what researchers call “social cognition.” It’s yet another indication that cats are not as aloof as we think. They’re interacting with us, especially if they sense that we are not distracted. We just have to get better at reading them.


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