Cats know their own names even though they don't act like it sometimes, study says
It hurts to be rejected, especially by your cat. Sometimes you call their name, and they just keep walking away, or chewing on a wool blanket, or staring at absolutely nothing. Why do they do that? What are they staring at?! And why do they look slightly frightened?! It's a mystery we may never solve.
However, researchers at the Sophia University in Tokyo published a study in Scientific Reports which reveals something compelling about cats: They recognize their own names, even if they don't like act it sometimes. There you were, giving your kitty the benefit of the doubt, thinking "Cats aren't like dogs, who can learn a hundred words. Maybe they just don't understand me." Nope! They were ignoring you. Deal with it!
"Some owners insist that their cats can recognize their own names and words related to food," wrote the researchers. "Therefore, we can make the following hypothesis: cats can discriminate words uttered by humans from other words - especially their own names, because a cat’s name is a salient stimulus as it may be the human utterance most frequently heard by domestic cats (cats kept by humans) and may be associated with rewards, such as food, petting, and play."
In the study, Atsuko Saito and colleagues ran four experiments with 16 to 34 animals. Each cat heard a recording of its owner or another person saying its name, or another cat's name, or a noun of similar length. The researchers observed when cats hear their own names they react more strongly, moving their heads, ears and tail. However, cats in cat cafés are unable to distinguish between their name and the names of other cats who live with them.
The results do not suggest that cats assign a sense of self to their names, but rather that they are trained to recognize a sound; a sound that could mean something good, like a treat or a toy, or something bad, like a trip to the vet or a dreaded claw-trimming. "We conclude that cats can discriminate the content of human utterances based on phonemic differences," concluded the researchers.
This news might not come a big surprise to some cat-owners, but at least now there's scientific evidence to back up your suspicions. Your cat understands that you're calling their name - they just don't care.