06:05 GMT17 January 2021
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    A new study from the Sophia University in Tokyo shows that cats can determine their own names from a list of other words and from other noises and are able to pick them out from the sound of human voices.

    Over the course of four experiments, published on Thursday in Scientific Reports, researchers tested the ability of domestic house cats and kitties from a cat café to pick their own names out of a jumble of recorded words.

    READ MORE: Hilarious Cat Tries to Get Through Glass Door

    The scientists played recordings of various nouns being spoken mixed in with people (including their owners) saying their names as well as the names of other cats. They found that most of the cats detected the sound of human voices alone – their tails flicked and ears twisted towards the sound. However, as the recordings rambled on with a list of nouns, the house cats began to ignore the human voices until they heard their own name.

    “These cats discriminated their own names from general nouns even when unfamiliar persons uttered them,” the authors wrote. “These results indicate that cats are able to discriminate their own names from other words.”

    Meanwhile, the cats from the cafes responded to not just their own name but the names of cohabitating cats. The authors suggested that many different humans visit cat cafés, and since the cats’ names are listed in cafés, visitors can call the names of the cats. However, the way names are called may vary by visitor (e.g., intonation may vary); such a condition may hinder cats in discriminating their name from those of other cats, or the names could be mentioned along with other names too frequently and didn’t carry any additional reward from the speaker, like attention or a snack.

    The researchers suggested that the observed response was likely conditioned, as “a cat’s name is a salient stimulus as it may be the human utterance most frequently heard by domestic cats (cats kept by humans) and may be associated with rewards, such as food, petting, and play.”

    However, the authors of the study wrote that interactions between cats and humans have been researched much less than, for example, interactions between dogs and humans, and further research could bring more discoveries in terms of the way we communicate with our feline friends.


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