A new study suggests that our feline friends recognize their names.
When I call my cat Cici, I usually accompany it with a whisper of a bag of treats or a whistle, because I’m not sure she knows or understands her name. Have you ever wondered the same thing about your own feline friend? A recent scientific study provides some answers.

Discovering how well cats understand us.

Dr. Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, wondered the same thing about her cat Okara and decided to conduct a study to find out if cats actually recognize their names when called.

Between 16 and 34 cats participated in the study over four sessions, along with a series of human voice recordings. Each cat listened to a recording of its own voice and a recording of the voice of a stranger. This was to ensure that the cat responded to the words spoken, not just the familiar sound of its own person’s voice.

Each recording contained three words similar to the cat’s name, and the fourth word was the actual name. As the four words were played, the responses of each cat were observed and recorded. Initially, most cats responded to the first word, until they realized that there was a second and third word. Most lost interest after the third word, until they heard the fourth word, which was familiar to them: their name! They reacted with a range of behaviors, including tail wagging, ear twitching, head turning and even growling. Dr. Saito found that the cats reacted depending on whether their name was spoken by their owner or a stranger.

Domestic cats vs. cafeteria cats

To gather more evidence, Dr. Saito conducted the same study with cats living in a cat cafe. Keep in mind that most of these cats are not necessarily called by name on a daily basis, but usually respond to an open call from visitors.

Dr. Saito found that the cats in the cafe responded to being called by any voice and did not know if the names used were their own or another cat’s.

These observations show that house cats know the difference between their name and other similar sounding words, whether those names are called by a stranger or by their own person.

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