Cats Recognize The Sound Of Their Names

They Just Don't Care

April 5, 2019

Photo credit: Chuck Taylor

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Researchers in Japan say they've discovered that cats actually understand their names when they hear it.

Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo says there's no evidence that cats attach meaning to our words, whether it's their name or anything else, like "get off the counter". Instead, they've learned that when they hear their names they often get rewards like food or play, or something bad like a trip to the vet. And they hear their names a lot. So the sound of it becomes special, even if they don't really understand that it refers to their identity.

In a series of four different experiments, the researchers discovered cats showed a meaningful response to their own names, even after hearing four similar-sounding nouns or the names of other cats living in the home or the cat café, where much of the study was conducted. The cats showed interest not only when their owners called their names, but also when strangers did.

Saito's past experiments have revealed cats can interpret human gestures to find hidden food, recognize their owner’s voice, and beg for food from a person who looks at them and calls their name. This suggests that felines know their names.