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.
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.”
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.