Gaze shifts and fixations dominate gaze behavior of walking cats

T. J. Rivers, M. G. Sirota, A. I. Guttentag, D. A. Ogorodnikov, N. A. Shah, I. N. Beloozerova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Vision is important for locomotion in complex environments. How it is used to guide stepping is not well understood. We used an eye search coil technique combined with an active marker-based head recording system to characterize the gaze patterns of cats walking over terrains of different complexity: (1) on a flat surface in the dark when no visual information was available, (2) on the flat surface in light when visual information was available but not required for successful walking, (3) along the highly structured but regular and familiar surface of a horizontal ladder, a task for which visual guidance of stepping was required, and (4) along a pathway cluttered with many small stones, an irregularly structured surface that was new each day. Three cats walked in a 2.5-m corridor, and 958 passages were analyzed. Gaze activity during the time when the gaze was directed at the walking surface was subdivided into four behaviors based on speed of gaze movement along the surface: gaze shift (fast movement), gaze fixation (no movement), constant gaze (movement at the body's speed), and slow gaze (the remainder). We found that gaze shifts and fixations dominated the cats' gaze behavior during all locomotor tasks, jointly occupying 62-84% of the time when the gaze was directed at the surface. As visual complexity of the surface and demand on visual guidance of stepping increased, cats spent more time looking at the surface, looked closer to them, and switched between gaze behaviors more often. During both visually guided locomotor tasks, gaze behaviors predominantly followed a repeated cycle of forward gaze shift followed by fixation. We call this behavior "gaze stepping". Each gaze shift took gaze to a site approximately 75-80. cm in front of the cat, which the cat reached in 0.7-1.2. s and 1.1-1.6 strides. Constant gaze occupied only 5-21% of the time cats spent looking at the walking surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-499
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 5 Sep 2014


  • Constant gaze
  • Eye movement
  • Head movement
  • Locomotion
  • Motor control
  • Travel fixation


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