Study says cats respond to sound of their names, may choose to ignore you

If you think your pet cat willfully ignores you, you may be right.

The Associated Press reported that researchers at multiple universities and research institutes in Japan have found that domestic cats can determine their names from other words, but not in the way humans do.

>> Read more trending news

The findings were published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports and compiled by Atsuko Saito, of University of Tokyo, Musashino University and Sophia University in Tokyo; Kazutaka Shinozuka, of RIKEN Brain Science Institute; and Yuki Ito and Toshikazu Hasegawa, of University of Tokyo.

Results were determined from four experiments with 16 to 34 domestic cats in each. Cats were played a recording of  their owner's voice or another person's voice reciting a list of words, then the cat's name. The list of words had the same length and accents as their own names.

Credit: Matt Rourke

Credit: Matt Rourke

The experiments found that cats lost interest as the lists went on, but, on average, showed a response in the form of vocalization, tail movement, moving their ears or moving their head when they heard their names.

"From the results of all experiments, it thus appears that at least cats living in ordinary households can distinguish their own names from general words and names of other cats," the study said. "This is the first experimental evidence showing cats' ability to understand human verbal utterances."

Although the study says cats don’t necessarily attach meaning to human words, including their names, they’ve learned to associate actions with their names. These can be positive -- like treats or play -- or negative -- a veterinarian visit or bath.

So when you call your cat and see them move their tail or rotate an ear but they don’t move, they could really be ignoring you.

About the Author