Dogs are known to usually listen by name, but this doesn’t necessarily apply to cats. A new study from Japan offers cat lovers cause for hope. Under the experimental conditions, the animals reacted even when strangers called them.
Cats can do a lot: catch mice, react to the sound of the can opener, or just look beautiful. So far it has only been speculated whether they are also able to recognize their own name.
Atsuko Saito, an animal behavior expert at Tokyo’s Sophia University, wanted to find out more. In his studies with cats, Saito had already discovered that cats can correctly interpret human gestures, for example when it comes to finding hidden treats.
Cats are not only his very personal favorite animals, but also one of his main areas of research.
Experimental series in cat bars and Japanese private homes
To find out if the cats know their names, the researcher and her team observed 78 cats in cat bars and then in private households in Tokyo. In the apartments and cafes, Saito’s employees asked both owners and strangers to call the animals by name.
To document the experiment, dthe reactions of the cats recorded on video. A brief twitch of the tail, an arbitrary movement of the head, and the turning of the ears in the direction of the caller were taken as signs that the cats are reacting to their names.
After a total of four such attempts, scientist Saito and his team came to the conclusion that cats must know their names. The reactions of most of the animals did not allow other conclusions.
Surprisingly, if people undergoing the human test only yelled a name that sounded similar to the cat’s, the animals would not respond.
The American behavioral scientist confirms the observations of the Japanese scientist
After the study was published from Japan, American behavioral biologist Jennifer Vonk made the observations in National Geographic confirmed, but with a restriction:
It is possible that the animals reacted only because they associate calling their name with something positive, such as with the next feed or in anticipation of being stroked.
The behavioral biologist from the United States was recently busy with a similarly structured experiment. She too had found that cats don’t react to random noises or similar names.
Hear your name: Currently, dogs may still have an evolutionary advantage over cats
Humans have been breeding dogs for many thousands of years. The man-dog relationship is linked to the need for the animal to listen to the command of its owner. Obedience and loyalty are goals of selection and breeding in dogs, consciously or unconsciously.
Until less than a hundred years ago, humans had a different need for cats: they had to keep mice and rats away, and it was enough that they were present only in the vicinity of the human home.
Both Japanese scientist Saito and his American colleague Vonk propose that the evolution of cats as pets is not yet complete and will continue to develop in the future.
Cats that follow their owners like a dog are still a rarity. The more cats live with humans, the more likely this will change someday.
Read More: Japanese Cat Names: The Most Beautiful Names and What They Mean