Despite humans’ long lasting relationship with cats, there are still many mysteries to the feline mind. Their preference for GU jeans and fear of circles are but a few of the many secrets locked behind those stoic eyes.
However, researchers at Kyoto University and Azabu University in Kanagawa have been steadily learning more and more about cats’ psyches. Their latest research has found that in homes where three or more cats reside, they can learn each other’s names.
This was determined in a similar way to Kyoto University’s 2016 study which found that cats have a rudimentary understanding of physics. Nineteen test subjects were shown photos of different cats on a computer, including ones that they cohabitate with, while also saying a name. In instances where cats the subjects knew were displayed but a different name was called out, the subjects would stare at the image for about a second longer than usual, indicating that they realize something is not right and are in thought.
But before you go thinking, “Aha! I knew that cat I lent money to was just pretending it didn’t know me,” a similar study was carried out with human faces and names, but with less successful results. Test subjects didn’t seem to acknowledge mismatched humans as clearly as they had with other cats, but the research found that the longer-lasting the relationship and the larger the family of the home the cat lives in, the more likely it is to remember human names.
Research fellow Saho Takagi with Azabu University explained to NHK that she herself is a cat fancier and wanted to learn more about how they understand human language. Cat fans online were also quick to point out that the study results matched their own experiences too.
“My cat definitely knows. I think my cat also knows the dog’s name.”
“That makes sense. They always seem to know when I’m about to come home or go to the toilet too.”
“I tried it on my cat and it seemed startled when I changed its name slightly.”
“My mother tried to change our cat’s name because she was bored with it, but the cat would only respond to its old name. I was impressed.”
“When I would call one of my cats, the others would look at him like, ‘What? Why does he get to go first?'”
“Cats are really smart. When I left the stove on one time, it stood in front and started meowing to get my attention.”
“I had three cats and one dog with five names between them because of a nickname: Kiki, Ki-kun, Kitchu, Ki-tan, and Chu-kun. They would always only answer to their own names.”
While this appears to be common sense among multiple pet owners, at least it now has some peer-reviewed scientific backing. It also perhaps lends some credit to the more controversial theory that one way to find a lost cat is to ask other cats in the neighborhood about it.
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