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The study of the understanding of cats
It is no wonder to all of us that our cat responds to both our voice and her name or other words. Nevertheless, there are few studies on the subject.
A recent Japanese study, edited by Atsuko Saito, published in Scientific Reports gives us some information.
Study organization: does my cat respond to his name?
In four experiments with 16 to 34 cats, each cat heard a recording of the voice of its owner, or another person, slowly reciting a list of four names or other cat names, followed by the name of the cat itself.
The first results: does my cat recognize his name?
Many cats reacted at first – by moving their heads, ears or tails, for example – but they gradually lost interest as the words were read. The crucial question was whether or not they would respond more to their name.
On average, and fortunately, these cats reacted again when they heard their names.
How to interpret the results: did my cat recognize his name
Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo says there is no evidence that cats attach meaning to our words, not even to their names. Instead, they have learned that when they hear their name, they often get rewards like food or games or something bad like a trip to the vet. And they often hear their names. Thus, the sound becomes special, even if they don’t understand what it refers to their identity.
Kristyn Vitale, who studies cat behaviour and cat-human bonding at Oregon State University, also agreed that the new results do not mean that cats attribute a sense of self to their name. It’s more like training them to recognize a sound,” she says.
Conclusion: my cat recognizes his name
The conclusion of the study will therefore surely disappoint: yes, my cat recognizes his name and the sound of my voice, but he does not necessarily associate it with himself, but more with a sound for which he recognizes an effect. However, it has not been demonstrated either that he or she associates or does not associate a personal meaning with his or her name.