Report Cats Recognize Their Own Names—Even If They Choose to Ignore Them

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    tom_mai78101 The Helper Connoisseur / Ex-MineCraft Host Staff Member

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    Cats are notorious for their indifference to humans: Almost any owner will testify to how readily these animals ignore us when we call them. But according to a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports, domestic cats do recognize their own names—even if they walk away when they hear them.

    Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist at the University of Tokyo, previously showed that cats can recognize their owners’ voices. In her latest study she narrowed this down, investigating whether they respond to hearing their names. The study included 78 cats from Japanese households and a “cat café.” (Such cafés, where patrons can interact with felines, are popular in Tokyo and have started to catch on in London and New York.)

    During their experiments Saito and her colleagues used what behavioral psychologists call the habituation-dishabituation method. This involves repeatedly exposing a subject to a stimulus (in this case a spoken word) until the subject no longer displays any reaction. Then the subject is presented with a test stimulus (in this case, its name), and researchers observe whether it reacts. This step helps rule out responses to random stimuli.

    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.

    Read more here. (Scientific American)

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