Good question. Of course, some might say that felines, known for being independent, understand more but actually care less. A recent study has determined that cats can understand quite a lot and that they also respond to our tone of voice and gestures, plus repetition, to enhance that understanding. This was the first experimental evidence showing cats’ ability to understand human verbal utterances.
Have you ever called out to kitty and wondered if she was responding to her name or to the sound of your familiar voice? Animal behavioral scientists wondered the same thing. It turns out that Mittens and Snowball can understand their names, according to 2016 research from Sophia University, a top private institution in Tokyo, Japan.
The study’s findings were published in the paper, “Domestic Cats Discriminate Their Names From Other Words” in the journal Scientific Reports. Based on the team’s work, Dr. Atsuko Saito concludes that “cats can discriminate their owner’s voice from a stranger’s.”
For this study, the first of its kind, there were four detailed experiments done on a test group of 34 domestic cats. Researchers found that cats can distinguish the voice of their owners from the voices of unfamiliar people. At the same time, it established that a cat can distinguish its own names from general words as well as from the names of other cats.
Related: “How Cats Communicate With Their Pet Parents“
Furthermore, the team finds that “…evidence illustrates that domestic cats have the ability to recognize human gestural, facial, and vocal cues.”
About the cats: Of the 34 neutered cats participating in this study, some were from households and others from a cat café where they were more accustomed to mixing with strangers and other cats. There were 24 mongrels, plus three LaPerms, a Laperm Shorthair, a Devon Rex, a Somali, a Scottish Fold, an American Curl, a Tonkinese, and a Munchkin. Their ages ranged from six months to 10 years, with a mean age of five-and-a-half. The age when these cats began to live with their owners ranged from birth to age three.