Here are two fun and silly and consequently viral animal videos that I was recently shown on Twitter, but they both raise a non-trivial question about animals and their degree of self-awareness.
First up, a cat looks in a mirror, and is surely not aware that the other cat is him/her. Cats are much stupider than they seem to us, because their basic method of going about things is the way a wise human goes about things, often rather slowly, carefully and thoughtfully, or else in a way that looks very alert and clever. But, often they are thick as several planks.
Meanwhile, a dog watches herself on TV doing one of those canine obstacle courses in a show. Dogs behave like stupid humans, with wildly excessive enthusiasm for stupid things, and consequently we tend to think of them as being very stupid. But the typical dog is a lot cleverer than the typical cat, I believe. Dogs don’t care how stupid they look. Cats typically don’t either, but cats typically behave like they do care about looking stupid, unless you dangle something in front of them on a string, at which point they go crazy, unless they are too old to care.
But back to my self-awareness point.
As commenter “Matt” says, of the dog watching herself on TV:
In other words, Matt is no more certain than I am that she does know it’s her. Maybe she’s watching a totally different dog do what she likes to do, and she’s excited about that, just like any other sports fan.
The cat video ends with a variation on what seems to be a regular internet gag about misbehaving reflections (that vid being in the comments on the cat vid), but that’s a different story. Someone else adds a Marx Brother, or maybe it’s actually two Marx Brothers, doing the same gag, in those far off days before there was an internet.