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Researchers at Kyoto University discovered that cats who live with other felines most likely can recognize their own and each other’s names, possibly even knowing humans’ names.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports and looked at 48 cats who either lived in houses with a minimum of three other cats or were from “cat cafes” where they lived with many other felines.
The scientists tested their name recognition by showing each cat a computer monitor that showed a familiar cat’s face and an audio recording of their owner calling the cat that was displayed a real name or a name that wasn’t a match to the cat on the screen.
When the cats heard the names that weren’t a match to the individual shown, cats from houses with few feline roommates spent a lot more time looking at the screen, most likely puzzled. If the name matched the face, the cats stared less.
The researchers theorize in their paper that this could be food-motivated behaviour. For example, the cats learn that when one is called, that one is getting food.
Saho Takagi, an animal science researcher, told the Japanese news The Asahi Shimbun that their discovery is “astonishing.” Cats most likely ignore people calling their names as they do not know us. Perhaps they are just being rude.
Although those results were less precise, the scientists tried a similar study with human faces rather than cats. However, they found that cats from households with more humans showed way more hesitance when presented with the wrong name—maybe because the cats hear people calling each other by name far more often.
A feline’s behaviour and learning are an ongoing study for researchers; in 2019, a study discovered that cats are less distant than stereotypes suggest. In 2020, one cat study showed that cats could learn behaviours by viewing what humans do.
All of this is jarring and delightful info for cat owners, depending on the names you give your semi-domesticated psychopaths when no one else is around. For example, on paper, the cats’ names are Sassy or Chad. But, based on the study, they probably know one another as “Just Pancake!” and “Mister Kitty.”