Cats are often seen as aloof and disengaged animals compared to dogs. Beneath their air of indifference to the world around them, cats actually listen intently to your conversations. To the point of knowing the first name of each of the inhabitants of the home, humans as pets, according to a new Japanese study.
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The ability to recognize one’s first name is often attributed to dogs. But cats would also be capable of it, and their faculties would go even much further. They might remember the names of the people who live with them and the names of the cats they are familiar with.
To prove it, scientists conducted an experiment on a dozen domestic cats. Some of them live in a house with other felines, and the others in a “cat bar” with several animals.
The test consisted of showing the animal the image of a cat that it knows well. In parallel, the recorded voice of the owner pronounces the first name of this cat displayed on the screen. Then they showed the same photo but broadcasting a bad first name. Scientists have observed the behavior of felines in both configurations (good and bad name).
When the name didn’t match the picture, cats tended to stare at the screen longer, as if puzzled by the error. This reaction was all the more visible in cats living in homes rather than those living in a “cat café”. The latter reside with many other cats and may be less familiar with each of them.
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How does your cat remember the names of its fellow cats?
The researchers repeated the experiment, this time with photos of the owners. Again, cats paused longer on the screen when the name didn’t match their owner’s face. This tendency was all the more marked when the cat had been living in the household for a long time. And that several people lived there.
Scientists have deduced that a higher number of people living under the same roof multiplies social exchanges and therefore the opportunities for cats to learn the names of other cats and humans. “In other words, the frequency and number of exposures to stimuli may make the name-face association more likely,” summarize the study authors. This suggests that cats observe interactions between humans and record what they hear.
These first very intriguing results show that like dogs, cats too would be able to retain words. And especially to associate them with a person. They will have to be supplemented with data including a larger number of felines. Moreover, these research works do not explain by which process cats learn, retain and recognize the names of their congeners. Future studies may be able to answer this.
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