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Do animals understand technology?

Jeff  Male  East Sussex
12-Jan-2021 20:14 Message #4803194
A friend of mine has a cat about 8 months old. The cat is extremely curious, and I think that he's very intelligent, for example going to find the bag of cat litter pellets (even after it's been hidden somewhere different) and pulling out some pellets while my friend is emptying the litter tray.

Like most animals, the cat doesn't recognise that a mirror shows himself. But he watches intensely some television programmes, (even when there isn't much action, such as Bob Ross painting a picture). He know me well, and he looked at and listened to me when my friend showed me to him on her mobile phone during a Zoom call today.

In how much technology do you think that animals realise what is happening?
JustLyn  Female  Cheshire
12-Jan-2021 21:38 Message #4803198
It does make me wonder Jeff.

It could be a habit, and the dog wouldn't understand a photo was being taken, but the Holliedog that we had to have put to sleep last May used to know to pose for any camera.

It was also lovely how she enjoyed a good view, and would sit and look to the horizon sat on a hill as if she took the sights just like her human owner.

The dog we have left, Rosie, often watches television when dogs are on it, and my partner's cat appears to have enjoyed a recent birdwatching programme with him.
Blackjack  Male  South Yorkshire
12-Jan-2021 23:03 Message #4803206
Maybe you should also include the human animal and how some cannot adapt to new fangled technology.
JustLyn  Female  Cheshire
13-Jan-2021 11:58 Message #4803269
Blackwatch, maybe soon, their dog will teach them?

We already have to spell many words as Rosie the border collie understand them even when no addressing her. She maybe apparently asleep, but if inadvertently mention "walk", "water park", "treat", "tea", "out" to name a few, her ears prick up or/and we get a tail wag.

She also now has a button to press that dings, that dispenses a treat.

Another example...
Jeff  Male  East Sussex
13-Jan-2021 18:59 Message #4803372
That video is impressive. But Bunny needs extra buttons so that he can say "I'm not a rabbit".

Every day on the phone I chat with my friend H. Generally I like wit and laugh inwardly, but the antics of her kitten/cat Rudi often make me laugh out loud. Rudi takes much of H's time and he is often a ruddy nuisance, but H and I both love him.

Rudi is getting fat. So two days ago H gave him less food than usual, in his bowls on the kitchen floor, leaving the rest in a sachet on the kitchen worktop, and H went into the lounge. A few minutes later Rudi walked into the lounge carrying the sachet. H said he had a big grin on his face!

Rudi has recently got used to lying in an armchair to watch television. H put one of his lovely beds on the armchair, but Rudi stood on the floor on his hindlegs, reached up, and using much effort dragged the bed off the armchair, then lay on the armchair again. I wonder if he understood H's lesson to him, with a tennis ball on the staircase, about gravity.
JustLyn  Female  Cheshire
14-Jan-2021 17:55 Message #4803490

Your story reminded me of my nephew's cat Trevor. My sister isn't keen on cats but respects that her son loves the cat, who presently is his only companion since he developed epilepsy and started hearing voices etc. Anyway, my sister had gone to visit and whilst her son was in the garden, she (not to hurt him) batted the cat off the chair so she could sit down. Later, when the son came in the house, the cat walked up to him and looked, and then the son asked his mother wat had she done to the cat as it had "told" him he was upset.

You might like to read a book called "Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin.
n the book there is an interesting story of a talking parrot who wouldn't talk. It was the subject of an experiment in teaching a parrot to recognise and describe a colour. The observers of the research were in attendance to see the evidence, and the researcher became frustrated the parrot wouldn't perform. It just sat silent on it's perch.
Later, the parrot spoke something like "Where's my treat".
The parrot not only knew all the colours (it wouldn't demonstrate), but it had learned additional language enough to ask a question they hadn't taught it.
The reason it wouldn't perform was it usually got a treat and it wasn't offered one when the moment came to prove what it could do in front of the right people.
OcelotTangle  Male  Cornwall
14-Jan-2021 19:37 Message #4803502
Badgers are very tech savvy.
Jeff  Male  East Sussex
20-Jan-2021 21:36 Message #4804348
Rudi's owner is H, although it's a cliche that you don't own a cat, psychologically it owns you! H has artistic skills, and Rudi sometimes paws the paintbrushes, and contributes to H's pictures by walking on them. He'd be a great modern artist, like the chimpanzee Peter ("Pierre Brassau"), 4 of whose paintings in 1964 fooled art critics!
I think that Rudi is very intelligent, and I mentioned that he watched Bob Ross on TV painting a picture. But I doubt that Rudi really understood what was going on. And although Rudi has sometimes seen and heard me close up in real life, when Rudi sees and hears me on a mobile phone Zoom call I doubt that he realises that it's me.

In thread "Uniting the country", as I wrote "He must have been bursting to go, but presumably didn't want to make messy his paws and the carpets & furniture", those last 5 words weren't meant to be literally true. It can be convenient to anthropomorphise animals by giving them human thoughts, but it can be misleading, and careful experiments (which I can't do) are needed to eliminate wrong ideas.


Thanks for suggesting "Animals in Translation". Some of its pages are available free of charge in the website, which I found interesting and it has many very good reviews, but I won't buy it to read more of its 360 pages. (Page numbers on the website are 14 pages higher than in the book, for example website page 304 shows book page 290.)

One of the book's insights is the comparison of animal perceptions to autism.
Page 45 includes "This is the single most important thing to know about the way animals see the world: animals see details, people don't see. They are totally detail-oriented. That's the key. ... The first small detail I saw spook a cow was shadows on the ground. Cattle will balk at the sight of a shadow. ... The entrance to the chute might be too dark, or there might be a bright reflection on a metal bar that was causing the animal to balk."
And page 310 includes "Hyper-specificity is probably the main reason animals seem less smart than people. How intelligent could a horse be if he thinks the really scary thing in life isn't a nasty handler but the nasty handler's hat?"

At first Rudi was unnerved by a laser light beam that H moved around the floor and that Rudi couldn't feel when he "caught" it. But on a later date, Rudi realised that H was holding a device that caused it, and he watched H's hand, (but she avoided shining the laser into his eyes).

Pages 95-96: "Breeders have made collie faces thinner and thinner, for example, leaving less and less space inside the skull for their brain. ... their intelligence has gone down". That annoys me.

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