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The thought processes of 15 cats were tested by attaching food to the end of lengths of string and observing whether they could figure out that pulling the line brought the treats closer.|
The cats had no problem with tackling single pieces of string. However, when faced with two options, experts discovered that unlike their canine counterparts, cats were unable to consistently pick a baited string over a dummy.
Psychology lecturer Britta Osthaus, who conducted the study, said the findings shatter the myth that cats are smarter than dogs.
Mrs Osthaus, of Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, said: "This finding is somehow surprising as cats regularly use their paws and claws to pull things towards them during play and hunting.
"They performed even worse than dogs, which can at least solve the parallel string task."
She added that the results show that cats do not understand cause-and-effect connections between objects.
The experiments involved attaching fish and biscuit treats to one end of a piece of string, placing them under a plastic screen to make them unreachable.
They were tested in three ways, using a single baited string, two parallel strings where only one was baited, and two crossed strings where only one was baited.
With two crossed strings, one cat always made the wrong choice and others succeeded no more than might be expected by chance.
Mrs Osthaus added: "If we know their limits we won't expect too much of them, which in turn is important for their welfare.
"I am not trying to say cats are stupid, just they are different. We are so anthropomorphic we can't see the world through their eyes."