Cats recognize their own name, study suggests
Your pet cat Whiskers probably recognizes his name when you call him – even if it feels like he's ignoring you.
A new study out Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that domestic cats are able to distinguish between their name and other words, even when an unfamiliar person is the one saying their name.
Researchers in Japan conducted experiments with cats from both households and multi-cat "cat cafes." Each cat heard a recording of its owner's voice or another person's voice reciting four nouns or other cat names and then the cat's own name.
The researchers found that though the cats initially perked up when the list of words began, they gradually lost interest – until, that is, their own name was played. The cats were on average more responsive to their own names than the last non-name word recited.
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The cats mostly reacted to their names with "orienting behavior" like moving their ears or heads; Less than 10% of the animals responded with "communicative behavior" by vocalizing, moving their tail, or moving locations.
The research also suggests that household cats in multi-cat homes can tell the difference between their names and the names of other cats. Cats living in a cat cafe, however, may not, the study suggests.
Cats' abilities to recognize their names probably does not mean they've attached a meaning to their name. Rather, the study's authors postulate, cats probably associate their names with rewards, such as food, petting or play, or stressors, like a visit to the vet.
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