SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Do pets mimic our behavior?

It’s not uncommon for people to think of some pets as expert mimics – birds, for instance. But according to a recently published report, there is evidence to suggest other pets do it, too.

“We usually think about ‘Polly want a cracker?’ but cats, aloof cats, have been shown to actually change their behavior and start to mimic humans,” explained veterinarian Jennifer Scarlett, co-president of the San Francisco SPCA.

“We’ll see it in the change of their nocturnal behavior, if they’re living closely with humans, we’ll see their activities change to meet ours,” said Scarlett. “They’ll also change their solicitation cries, hunger cries, things that they want.”

“In addition,” she continued, “they’ve been shown to take on some of the personality traits of people.”

Can dogs do the same?

“People have something called Automatic Imitation and dogs do as well, they literally watch us and observe us and will change their body language to match ours,” said Scarlett. “In addition, they’ll learn from us.  They’ll watch us and learn to open doors or solve problems very much the way people do it.”

What does all this mean for a pet owner?

“Well, this is good news and bad news,” reasoned Scarlett. “The good news is we have an incredible amount of influence, not just through obedience commands but how we react to situations. If we want our dog to remain calm in a situation often times remaining calm ourselves can influence them greatly.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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