You call Fluffy, she comes. You’d like to think your cat is reacting to you, your voice, because she knows her name.
So, is your cat really responding to his or her name? Research says yes.
If you have a cat, this doesn’t surprise you at all. But it’s kind of interesting to know, right?
Japanese scientists in the journal “Scientific Reports,” provided the first experimental evidence that your cat can distinguish words we say and discern human speech – even when called by name from a stranger.
The researchers’ experiment allowed cats to hear a recording of their owner’s voice saying their name, and then random nouns.
78 cats participated and were played sequences of words that were similar in length to the cats’ names, measuring reactions before finally saying the cats’ actual names.
They found that the cats reacted to their names, such as moving their heads, ears or tails, but lost interest when their owners said random nouns.
The cats were demonstrating something called habituation, meaning the cat will ignore sounds that don’t harm them or benefit them. Humans have similar experiences.
The study attributes this reaction to the repetition of their names, followed by some sort of reward such as food or play.
Also, the cats engaged or perked back to attention even if the voice saying their name belonged to a stranger, rather than the cat’s owner.
Now, that doesn’t mean cats can be trained like dogs (which have been studied for years with a lot of evidence that dogs can learn hundreds of words).
The findings suggest, however, that our beloved cats can attach meaning to our words and learn to respond to our voices, specifically when we say their names.
So, overall, your cat really is paying attention to you and they’re learning from it.
And other tidbits? Cats have been extensively studied by researchers. They have been used in research involving neurological studies, in studies that look at immunodeficiency diseases and even in studies of hearing and vision.
We certainly love our cats. Nearly 54 million people in the United States own a cat, according to a national pet owners survey. At least 77 million households own dogs. That translates into 68% of consumers with pets, spending more than 75 billion dollars in 2019 caring for them.
Cats are thought to come from the line of African wildcats. Their job was to catch rodents and keep areas disease-free. Your domestic kitty has links tracing back to ancient Egypt, more than four thousand years ago. They were brought to Europe by Greek and Phoenician traders. Cats were considered sacred animals because of their ability to reduce disease and help protect crops.
Later, approximately 700 years ago, Cats were linked to witchcraft. Hundreds of thousands were killed and some claim an increased rat population played a role in the spread of the Bubonic plague in the mid-1300s.
Back to the present day and why we love our kitties?
One reason is their capacity to receive affection. When we stroke a cat in a rhythmic action it does two things. One, cats have an incredible ability to register touch and purring commences. And two? Petting and stroking our cats is a meditative process that soothes and lulls us.
So go ahead and call your kitty over. She’ll respond to her name and respond to your gentle, loving stroking. What a win-win.