Any cat owner knows the eternal struggle of getting their fur babies to respond to names. Sometimes you call them and they look up, ears forward, eyes alert. But other times, no matter what pitch you use or how loudly you say it, they don’t move a whisker.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, actually, cats are a bit stupid. Maybe they just don’t have the capacity to recognise their own names?
But a new study suggests otherwise... oh how we’ve been fooled.
Much is known about the ability of dogs to communicate with humans, but researchers in Japan wanted to investigate how well domestic cats could differentiate between different human words.
Their experiment involved measuring whether cats reacted to their names when they were spoken among a string of other random nouns. The same test was then carried out with the words being spoken by a stranger, rather than by the cats’ owners.
Pets showed responses that would indicate recognition, such as pricking up their ears or moving their heads, although rarely showed any more excitement, such as moving their tails or making noise. Not surprising in the slightest.
The experts said it was “reasonable” to believe cats would react to their own names as they might associate it with rewards, such as food or play, or with “punishments” like having a bath or going to the vets.
John Bradshaw, an expert on human-animal interactions from the University of Bristol, told The Times: “Cats are just as good as dogs at learning — they’re just not as keen to show their owners what they’ve learnt.”
Atsuko Saito, from Sophia University in Tokyo and the author of the report, said the study could be used to help improve cats’ quality of life in the future: “For example, perhaps we can get cats to learn that dangerous objects or places are referred to by specific utterances.”
The major thing to take away here: next time your cat doesn’t respond to its name, you’re 100% being ignored.