Japanese scientists have discovered that cats actually recognize the names and faces of other felines they live with.
For their study published last month in Scientific Reports, researchers from Kyoto University and other institutions observed how cats react after hearing their housemates’ names being called.
Azabu University research fellow Saho Takagi, who specializes in animal science, initiated the study while working at Kyoto University.
“What we discovered is astonishing,” she said. “I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people’s conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do.”
The study delved into a common reaction exhibited by both humans and animals when something unexpected occurs: staring at a thing or event longer due to surprise.
The research team tested the behavior of 48 cats that lived in groups of three or more. Of the subjects, 19 lived in regular households while 29 lived at cat cafes.
During the experiment, a cat was made to listen to one of its roommates’ names being called and immediately shown images of the named cat’s owner and other cats.
Household cats were found to stare at the monitor longer when the spoken name and the photo shown did not match. Meanwhile, those from cat cafes showed no remarkable difference in their reactions.
The researchers posit that this is because cat cafe felines are called their individual names a lot less than their household counterparts due to the number of cats kept along with them.
According to Takagi, the new findings could further help prove cats’ linguistic cognition.
“It’s been believed that cats are indifferent to things that don’t benefit them, but we’ve learned that they pay attention to the communication between their human and feline roommates,” she told The Mainichi. “Going forward, I want to study how cats learn the names and faces of other cats.”
Cats have previously been observed to exhibit greater differences in their behavior and emotional expressions from one animal to another. That characteristic has limited the scope of previous studies that looked into how they understand and convey language.