Recent studies demonstrated that cats form social bonds with both conspecifics and humans. One of the key factors regulating social interactions is the transfer of emotions between the individuals. The present study aimed at investigating cats' spontaneous ability to match acoustic and visual signals for the recognition of both conspecific and human emotions. Different conspecific (cat "purr" and "hiss") and heterospecific (human "happiness" and "anger") emotional stimuli were presented to the tested population using a cross-modal paradigm. Results showed that cats are able to cross-modally match pictures of emotional faces with their related vocalizations, particularly for emotions of high intensity. Overall, our findings demonstrate that cats have a general mental representation of the emotions of their social partners, both conspecifics and humans.
Keywords: animal welfare; behavior; cat; emotion; physiology.