Cats can recognize their names, but that doesn’t mean they’ll respond to you: Study

Animals and Wildlife
Calling_Cats_73616-159532.jpg55617961

FILE – This Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 photo shows Shelley, an adopted cat, at its new home in Philadelphia. A study released on Thursday, April 4, 2019, suggests house cats respond to the sound of their own names. Researchers said it’s the first experimental evidence that cats can distinguish between words people say. (AP Photo/Matt […]

This is an Inside Science story.

(Inside Science) — Science has finally confirmed what cat owners knew all along: Cats know their own names.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they respond when called (another thing cat owners could have told you). Cats in the new study turned their heads and ears toward the sound of their names, but generally didn’t bother to vocalize back or communicate using their tails.

The findings came from a series of experiments using 16 to 34 cats in Japan. To get in the minds of their feline subjects, the researchers first made recordings of a human voice saying four common words with the same accent pattern and number of syllables as the cat’s name, followed by the name itself. For example, a cat named Kari heard the words “hifu” (Japanese for skin) and “shuto” (Japanese for capital).

Related: Meow hear this: Study says cats react to sound of their name

Most of the cats reacted less and less to each consecutive word. But when they heard their own names, most cats reacted strongly again, twitching their heads and ears toward the speaker.

The researchers also tested what happened when the voice on the recording started with the names of other cats living in the same household. Only a few of the cats in this experiment grew accustomed to the voice, reducing their response from the first to the fourth name. But those that did grow accustomed perked up again when they heard the fifth name, indicating that they knew it was their own.

That wasn’t the case for the feline residents of a “cat café” — a business that has a large number of cats for customers to interact with. Cats in the café could distinguish their names from ordinary words, but not from the names of other cats. The researchers speculate that cats in that environment might have trouble learning their particular names, since a customer who calls one cat will probably also pet a different cat if it comes over instead. The findings were published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

Inside Science is an editorially-independent nonprofit print, electronic and video journalism news service owned and operated by the American Institute of Physics.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss