In a new study, researchers have shown that cats can imitate the actions of their human companions based on scientific conditions.

“It’s really exciting,” said Kristyn Vitale, a cat cognition researcher and behaviorist at Unity College. “People think of cats as solitary and antisocial, [but] this study reinforces the idea that they’re watching us and learning from us.”

For nearly 10 years, ethologist from Eotvos Lorand University Claudia Fugazza, has been studying dog cognition using “Do as I Do” training, where dogs are trained to copy a behavior it already knows, such as rolling over, by saying “Do as I Do.” The human demonstrates the behavior, says “Do It!” and once the dog does it, will be rewarded. Over time, the dogs learn that “Do it!” means copy me. This training approach is used to test whether the animals can truly imitate the actions they have never done before.

Fugazza, also a dog trainer, trained one of her cats. The 11-year-old female feline is named Ebisu. Her friend Fumi Higaki, another dog trainer from Ichinomiya, Japan, decided to help train Ebisu.

In 16 subsequent trials, Ebisu accurately copied her owner more than 81 percent of the time, according to a report by the team in this month’s Animal Cognition.

So far, only dolphins, parrots, apes, and killer whales have so far shown imitating people, Fugazza says.

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