We train our dogs, and it’s clear that when we call them they usually respond especially when their name is used in an exciting tone or with a treat attached as the response. But, what about cats? Cats are known for their lack of caring attitude. Some cat owners even joke that the cat seems to be allowing the owner to live in their own house. On the other hand, some cat owners are convinced that their feline friend fully understands every word especially responding to the sound of their name.
In other scientific studies, animals like dogs, parrots, apes, and dolphins definitely respond and seem to understand human words and commands. Some of these animals are even trained to respond to simple commands and then featured in shows for all to watch and cheer on the behavior. But, cats are usually written off as not caring to respond at best. That is, until now when Dr. Atsuko Saito led a team in Japan who studied more than 75 cats. These cats were found in both houses that held them as pets as well as Japanese cat cafes where the felines are left to roam the business to provide observational entertainment for patrons. The findings suggest that even cats seem to be sensitive to changes of tone and sound of the human voice.
In the study, each cat heard four different words through a recording of their owner. The last word spoken was the cat’s name. The researchers watched closely to see if the cat moved its ears or tail or cocked its head in response to the sound. Most of the felines reacted quickly to the words and then lost interest as the list of sounds continued. However, when the final word, their name, was spoken they perked up at the sound of their own name spoken by their owner on the recording.
Before you get too excited, know that the scientists involved in the study acknowledge that all pets who show a reaction when their name is called are most likely not attaching sentimental meaning to the name as humans would. They have most likely learned to associate the sound of their name with positive reinforcement like food or with a negative response like a trip to the vet. Also, the cats studied who lived in the cat cafes were less likely to show differentiation between their names and the names of other cats in the cafe.
Still, the results of the research indicate that cats are capable of recognizing their own names and respond to it. Now, in typically expected cat-like behavior, this may mean they turn their tails to your face and prance away just to remind you who really is the boss. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to realize that your cat could very well understand more than you think they do.