Category: Cat Research, Cat Names

Do cats know their names? A study says they do, although they may choose to ignore you when you call.

New study shows cats know their names.

A new study shows cats know their names.

It’s official. Our worst suspicions are confirmed. A new study shows cats know their names. So if they don’t come when you call, they really are ignoring you. 

A team from the University of Tokyo watched 76 cats listen to recorded words that included their names. 

Although the cats seemed to tune out most of the human conversation, they all reacted when they heard their names, no matter who was saying them. 

But that didn’t mean they ran into their loving humans’ arms. They showed recognition by moving their heads or ears or twitching their tails

Cats Know Their Names And Understand Words With A Purpose

Call it selective hearing. Some researchers speculate that not only do cats know their names, they have a human vocabulary of about 50-60 words

If you tell your cat about your day, chances are he won’t understand a word you’re saying. But mention “food,” “eat,” “treats,” “go out” or “come in,” and he’ll be right there. I’m pretty sure my cats also understand “it’s raining” and “it’s snowing,” but they often don’t believe me until they find out for themselves. 

If nothing else, cats are efficient and experts at conserving energy. There’s no point in learning to understand all the words that describe your bad day because there’s nothing in it for them. 

Increasing Your Cat’s Human Vocabulary

Since cats know their names, you have to be careful how and when you say them. If you yell, “Boots! No!” and then soak him with a spray bottle, he’s going to learn very quickly to avoid you when you say his name.

But if you say his name, ask him to do something like get up or get down and reward him with a treat, he’ll decide it’s worth his while to follow some simple instructions. If he’s in the mood. 

For the most part, cats learn human words by associating them with actions. They associate “it’s time to eat” or“it’s dinnertime” with the sound of a can opening. But you can expand the conversation beyond food.

Try saying, “Let’s play!” or “Let’s go hunting!” as you’re reaching for a toy. Or if your cat is leash trained, ask him if he wants to go for a walk when you’re getting his harness and leash out.

You can also warn him about things he won’t like. It’s only fair to let him know when you’re about to vacuum or he needs to go in a carrier because he has a vet appointment. And vet doesn’t have to be a bad word if you’ve chosen one who’s cat-friendly

Communicating With Cats: It’s More Than The Spoken Word

You’re telling your cat about your day, and all those words seem to be going in one ear and out the other. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand what you’re saying. Cats pick up on our thoughts and understand our facial expressions. The way we sit, stand or walk tells them something about our frame of mind, too.

So when you tell your cat about your day, he probably knows exactly how you’re feeling. Does he care? He might. Or he might not.

How The Study Showed Cats Know Their Own Names 

The University of Tokyo researchers did their experiments with cats in their own homes and others who lived in a cat cafe. In one test, they had the cats’ people say four nouns, ending with the cats’ names. In another, people the cats didn’t know said the nouns and the cats’ names. Sometimes the nouns were the names of other cats who live in the household.

While the cats living in homes responded to their own names, the ones in the cat cafe often reacted to several. The researchers theorize this might be because the cats have fewer opportunities to learn their own names. 

So what about your cats? Do they know their names? Mine do, and they come when I call. Sometimes. 

Read more about cat names:
A Cat’s Take On Whether Cats Know Their Names
How To Name A Cat

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