You must have already experienced this situation: you call your cat by its name, using all possible and unimaginable tones of voice, but it does not come. Worse, it doesn’t even deign to turn their head towards you. At this moment, completely annoyed, you may tell yourself to reassure yourself that it’s because it doesn’t recognize their name and therefore can’t know that it’s them you’re calling. Forget it immediately. Your cat knows full well what their name is, it just prefers to ignore you…
Cats can distinguish their name among other words
According to a recent study, cats are indeed able to distinguish their own names among other words. But beware, this does not mean that they understand the human concept of a name!
To reach this conclusion, researchers, sent a series of names to 78 cats to find out their reactions. These were the names of the cats themselves but also the names of other cats they lived with as well as general names.
And there, surprise! A third of the cats were able to make out their own names, even when spoken by strangers. And for good reason, according to scientists, the name of cats is often associated with a reward or a punishment. It is therefore an “important stimulus”.
Only cats that lived in cat bars had trouble discerning their own names from those of their peers. On the other hand, this was not the case for cats living together in ordinary households. The environment of the animal therefore seems to play a role in the good assimilation of its name.
… But that doesn’t mean they’ll obey you!
Even if your cat knows their name, that doesn’t mean it’s likely to come when you call them, especially if it doesn’t have enough motivation. Indeed, during the experiment, the cats responded to their names by moving their ears or turning their heads. But they are less than 10% to have risen to move towards the person who pronounced their name.
So if your cat doesn’t react, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t recognize their name. Especially since a previous study had shown that our feline friends also knew how to recognize the voice of their human.
No, actually cats are not as eager as dogs to show their owners what they have learned. Moreover, they never communicate with sounds, or only if absolutely necessary. Indeed, mothers call their kittens only if they perceive an imminent danger. As you will have understood, cats prefer to use gestures and smells as means of communication.
However, if you call your furry friend by waving their favorite treat under their nose, you’re much more likely to get them to react than by simply calling them in a loving voice!