Committee Chair

Foerder, Preston G.

Committee Member

Warren, Amye; Rogers, Kate


Dept. of Psychology


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


There is evidence that an animal’s socialization towards humans and rearing environment can enhance their problem-solving ability. According to the social intelligence hypothesis, which states that intelligence evolved due to complex social environments, an animal’s social life should result in higher cognitive abilities. Domestic cats are capable of leading both solitary and social lives in their natural habitat, as well as in captive environments. I assessed both general problem-solving ability and the relationship between socialization and problem-solving ability, problem-solving speed, and latency to approach a novel apparatus in domestic cats. Twenty-four out of eighty-six cats solved the problem-solving task. There was also a significant relationship between the cats’ socialization with their problem-solving abilities, latency to solve, and latency to approach the apparatus. These results provide evidence that domestic cats are not only capable of problem-solving, but that their socialization towards humans influences their abilities.


I would like to thank my advisor, Preston Foerder, along with my committee members, Amye Warren and Kate Rogers, for their invaluable support throughout my thesis process; their constructive critiques greatly enhanced the quality of my research and writing. I also want to extend my sincere thanks to McKamey Animal Shelter, specifically Jamie McAloon for allowing me to work with their cats and Katie Christie for giving an abundant amount of time and effort to provide me with everything I needed. A special thank you to my older brother, Daniel Howard, for constructing the puzzle box I used throughout my study. I want to thank the undergraduate students of Dr. Foerder, Jade Wilson and Mallory Jones, for helping me collect data and code videos. I also want to extend my gratitude to K.C. Bagley for being a great sounding board for ideas and providing me with her experienced advice. I would like to sincerely thank Nina Ottosson for donating their cat puzzle, MixMax A, for my pilot study. Finally, I want to thank Maddie’s Fund for funding my project and making it all possible.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Cats -- Behavior


Domestic cats; Problem-solving; Socialization

Document Type

Masters theses




ix, 54 leaves