Studies show cats memorize the names of their owners and cat friends

There’s a common belief that cats are antisocial and indifferent creatures, but this assumption has been challenged. A Japanese study has just shown that cats pay much more attention to humans and other cats than we think.

Saho Takagi, an Azabu University fellow, led the research in collaboration with other campuses. Her team found out that domestic cats can recognize the names of their owners and feline friends when uttered.

The animal expert told The Asahi Shimbun :

“What we discovered is astonishing. I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people’s conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do.”

An experiment based on names and faces

The researchers sought to see if cats could recognize the names of their “buddy” felines. For their study, the researchers focused on 48 cats from households with many pets.

The researchers sat the cats down and made them listen to human voices calling out the names of other cats in the home. The photographs of named cats and others were then shown on a monitor to see how they reacted.

The findings revealed that felines spent more time gazing at images of nameless cats, implying that they had already recognized the names of the kittens they lived with. Saho Takagi remarked:

“These results indicate that only the domestic cats anticipated a specific cat’s face when they heard the cat’s name, suggesting that they matched the name of the stimulating cat with the specific individual.”

The survey also investigated whether domestic cats can recognize different human family members. Felines from larger households tended to stare longer at nameless people’s facial photos.

The same experiment was repeated with the owner’s name and a correct or incorrect picture of the owner. Again, the results were similar: the interviewed cats took more time to look at the picture when it did not represent their master.

This implies that the cat recognized the owner’s name but could not associate it with the incorrect photo. Conversely, the cats had an easier time remembering the names of other cats with whom they lived.

Unfinished business

According to the researchers’ findings, the cats would be much more familiar with the names of their fellow cats because a rivalry for food exists between the felines. The study suggests:

“A cat may receive food when the owner calls it by name, but not when it calls another cat’s name,”

Nevertheless, the researchers admit they don’t know why cats retain the names of humans and other cats. Nor do they understand why cats learn the names and faces of other cats. There are clearly more studies that need to be done.

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