Researchers have put some time into a new study that answers an age-old question – can cats identify their own names. The researchers say while the ability of domestic dogs to communicate with humans is well investigated, the ability of cats to communicate with humans isn’t. The team wanted to know if a cat could identify its name from other words.
Researchers used the habitation-dishabituation method in the investigation. Cats from normal households and from a cat cafe participated. The cats from ordinary households, cats habituated to the serial presentation of four different nouns or for names of cats that lived in the same house. The cats in that test showed they were able to discriminate their own names from general nouns.
The cats were able to recognize their name even if unfamiliar people said it. The results indicate that cats can discriminate their own names from general nouns. Interestingly, the cat cafe cats were able to recognize their name but were unable to tell their name from the names of other cohabitating cats.
The team concluded that cats could discriminate human words based on phonemic differences. Some of the experiments showed that cats were unable to differentiate their name from other nouns with the same length and similar accent as their own names. That was true when the cat’s owner or stranger said their name.
The team says that cats can differentiate their names from other nouns because their name is one of the most common things their human owners say to them. The recognition of the name is thought to be associated with a reward to the cats, such as petting or treats.