Ever wonder to yourself, as you warble your cat’s name across your kitchen, whether Lil Miss Whiskerface indeed recognizes her name? Well, science suggests that she does—she’s just ignoring you, because she’s a cat.
Scientific American has covered a new study in Scientific Reports by University of Tokyo behavioral scientist Atsuko Saito, whose previous work suggests that your cat does recognize your name. Now she’s back with more specific information—cats recognize their own names when spoken by their owners, and maybe even when spoken by strangers:
For the new study, the scientists first had cat owners repeatedly say four words that were similar to their cats’ names, until the cats habituated to those words. Next the owners said the actual names, and the researchers looked at whether individual cats (when living among other cats) appeared able to distinguish their monikers. The cats had more pronounced responses to their own names—moving their ears, heads or tails, or meowing—than to similar words or other cats’ names.
Then the researchers had people unfamiliar to the cats speak the names, to test whether the cats still recognized them. Although their responses were less prominent than when their owners called them, they still appeared to recognize their names after being habituated to other words.
Be sure to pick a good one!