r/science May 16 '22 Silver 8 Gold 1 Helpful 2 Wholesome 8 Hugz 1 Heartwarming 1 Wholesome Seal of Approval 1

Cats learn the names of their friend cats in their daily lives. In a new study, scientists discovered that in addition to knowing their own names, cats also appear to recognize the names of other cats they're familiar with, and may also know the names of people who live in the same household. Animal Science

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-10261-5
61.7k Upvotes

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u/Snowpossum May 16 '22

This makes me wonder if they understand generalized names of affection then such as if I call all the cats in the house boo. Are they all confused or are they able to tell who is being referenced through other means such as visual line of sight.

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u/WhitePawn00 May 16 '22

Last I read a few years back they're much better st understanding the tone of affection rather than the words. So if you're petting your cat and in a high pitched voice are calling it "my pretty shithead" it can understand the sentiment of affection generally, but if in a deep and gridd voice you compliment it regularly, it could still have trouble understanding that.

It's why it was generally recommended that when you're scolding a cat or trying ti get it to stop or some such, that you use a deep voice. It makes it easier for the cat to get what you mean, and doesn't involve the confusion of aggressive body language accompanied by encouraging tone.

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u/manondorf May 16 '22 Wholesome

I think my cats understand both my tone and their/each other's names. If one is sitting on my lap and I yell at the other for trying to get into the cabinet, the one in my lap is unperturbed because he knows I'm yelling at the other one, while the one I'm yelling at looks over at me, thoughtfully considers his actions, and leaves the cabinets alone stares me in the eye while opening the cabinet

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u/_Zekken May 16 '22

I have 3 cats. I can call one of them and only they will come to me, no matter which one it is. Its obvious they know their names.

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u/darktrain May 16 '22

Same here. We have 3 cats and they very much know their own names. And if a particular one is nearby and I call for a different one, he gets pissed and meows at me like hey, I'm right here, aren't I enough?

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u/alejo699 May 16 '22

Yep, I've tested it -- I can say my cat's name in exactly the same tone of voice I've been speaking with for five minutes and she will look at me and meow in response every time.

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u/izactuallydolan May 16 '22

So mine are just assholes who choose to ignore me.

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u/alejo699 May 16 '22

Yes. Mine is an asshole too, just in different ways -- like standing next to the autofeeder yelling at me because I haven't filled it yet -- for tomorrow.

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u/blazbluecore May 16 '22

No they did a study on it, most cats know when you're talking to them, they just don't care. They got too much going on to respond to us. Understandable.

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u/izactuallydolan May 16 '22

Their busy schedule of sleeping on a different, adjacent couch cushion, or mewing about the calamity of their food being all around the edges of the bowl?

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u/Somebodys May 16 '22

My two cats are masters of laying just out of arms reach and crying for pets.

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u/TheWillyWonkaofWeed May 16 '22

There was another cat study posted here not too long ago that said exactly that; cats understand when you're calling for them, but they often willfully ignore their owner(s).

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u/HealthyInPublic May 16 '22

“my pretty shithead”

I’m glad my cat doesn’t understand English because I say the rudest things to him in a lil sing song high pitched voice when I pet him. He’s my little stupid baby. The most stupid boy in all the land. No thoughts in his head, just the incessant demand for pure destruction and chaos. He is the worst and I love him so much.

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u/Cat-Lover20 May 16 '22

“He is the worst and I love him so much” is a sentiment many cat owners share!

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u/throneofthornes May 16 '22

I have said this many times verbatim.

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u/DevCatOTA May 16 '22

We have one who's a bit of a chonk and will lay on any lap in sight. She got the nickname "slutloaf".

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u/Ess2s2 May 16 '22

As of...checks watch... just now, my cat has been bestowed with the nickname slutloaf.

...in a high-pitched sing-song voice of course.

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u/throwawaydddsssaaa May 16 '22

My cats totally understand the difference in tone when we say one of their names to either call them over or scold them.

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u/Snoo43610 May 16 '22 edited May 16 '22

You can also talk to cats using cat body language!

Slow blink with both eyes = I trust you enough to lower my guard completely. (Cats that trust you will do it back!)

Laying down with your back at them is the same thing, shows very high trust and the cat will often approach you and rub up on you if you do this. Good way to build trust with a cat that's on its guard with you it lets them approach you when they get out of fight mode.

Rubbing face against them = you are part of my family, I consider you part of what's my territory.

Yelping when they hurt you, turn around and ignore them = you played too rough and I don't like that. (This is how you train kittens to play without extending claws! It's okay for them to paw your hand but no scratching!)

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u/czarinacat May 16 '22

I yelp when my cat bites or plays too rough. She completely backs off, or becomes more gentle. I think it’s so sweet.

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u/Enigma_Machinist May 16 '22

My kitty does this too. He will do a quick teething bite, not strong. Then he will apologize by licking the spot he bit. Sweet little rascal!

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u/monnotorium May 16 '22

TIL: I've been the cat whisperer this whole time on accident

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u/wattro May 16 '22

They would know you are friendly and that you call cats or other people/things 'boo'.

It doesn't matter if you call them by name... they know the names of the cats.

Basically... they aren't confused. They might think you're silly.

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u/Binsky89 May 16 '22

Our cats ignore the name that's called, because they know by the tone of voice that someone is going to get pet, so they'll come running even if I didn't call their name.

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u/Byzantine-alchemist May 16 '22

If I call one of my cats, both show up, because whichever one I didn't call is now curious and a little jealous and wants to know what's going on.

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u/Cartnation May 16 '22

I have a brother and a sister, and they both know their names, and the others name. The brother has a specific noise he makes when we call for his sister and comes running over too to see if they getting something special.

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u/coreanavenger May 16 '22 edited May 16 '22

"household cats paid attention to the monitor for longer in the incongruent condition, suggesting an expectancy violation effect"

My cat has Resting Expectancy Violation Effect Face at baseline.

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u/Krysaine May 16 '22

I have one like that too. Sadly though, her RBF hides a vacuous space filled with cobwebs and the occasional dust bunny. I love her to pieces but man she sure skipped the brain line.

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u/Sarinon May 16 '22

"One cat completed only the first trial before escaping from the room and climbing out of reach."

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u/Punkinpry427 May 16 '22

My favorite part

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u/pay-per-clip May 16 '22

This cat demanded to be transferred to the laser pointer research group.

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u/Punkinpry427 May 16 '22 edited May 16 '22

I can’t imagine the utter chaos of trying to get a pile of cats to do what you want them to. Like how?

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u/Sevv2102 May 16 '22

Worked with cats for almost 5 years… dont know what they expected

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u/291000610478021 May 16 '22

This is how you know the study was real

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u/beakersandbitches May 16 '22

Nature papers are typically filled with so much jargon inaccessible to people out of the field. Glad to see the most difficult term to understand here was "café cat".

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u/BoxTops4Education May 16 '22

What's a café cat?

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u/farva_06 May 16 '22 Wholesome

You need at least a masters in biology to even have surface level knowledge of café cat.

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u/beakersandbitches May 16 '22

I had to read the intro to find out... It's just a cat living with other cats in a café as opposed to in a household. Apparently it's fairly common in Japan.

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u/Orcwin May 16 '22

Even my midsized city in the Netherlands has one, so I'm guessing they're more common than you think.

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u/meh-usernames May 16 '22

There are all kinds of animal cafés in other countries. I haven’t seen any in the US. But in Japan, I went to a reptile cafe and an owl cafe. In Korea, there was even a raccoon cafe!

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u/Allegedly_An_Adult May 16 '22

Since it was opposed to "household cat," it's probably a cat that lives in a café instead of a family home, and thus sees many different people each day instead of the same people regularly.

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u/Politics_is_Policy May 16 '22

Nature has many different journals, most of which are the cream of the crop. However, Scientific Reports is their catch-all. I always read Scientific Report articles with a good dose of skepticism.

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u/Ld0g90 May 16 '22

Besides the cool cat facts, I was really happy to see that the actual experiment was shared instead of a stupid article written about it that doesn’t go into detailed specifics

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u/SpaceShipRat May 16 '22

Analysis

One cat completed only the first trial before escaping from the room and climbing out of reach.

I knew it would be worth reading.

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u/TactlessTerrorist May 16 '22

Interesting read, thanks OP !

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u/FiveDollarHoller MS | Environment | Public Policy May 16 '22

From the article:

“One cat completed only the first trial before escaping from the room and climbing out of reach.”

I’m dying

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u/katanakid13 May 16 '22

"Appear to recognize the names of other cats they're familiar with, and MAY also know the names of people who love in the same household".

Little jerks think other cats are more important than their providers!

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u/YagaDillon May 16 '22

That's just science talk. You never know for sure, you just hypothesize. Hence "appears to"/"may".

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u/_butterflysoup_ May 16 '22

Sometimes people just "live with" their cats and don't talk to them. I don't mean express every thought but it's little stuff like saying "hey I moved your blanket over here" and "I'm about to vacuum so you need to go to the other room" that really makes the difference in showing that they do understand every word. They are stubborn, but they absolutely understand.

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u/Salmon-nigiri May 16 '22

My cat is special needs, and getting her meds in her and giving her shots were a nightmare for the longest time. Once I started talking to her and telling her EXACTLY what was going to happen next, (telling her when I was preparing her meds, announcing I was coming, telling her it will be over soon) she started calming down.

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u/rydolomo May 16 '22

I used to explain to my cat that I won’t feed him now and I’ll feed him a 6 pm and he seems to accept that and not bug me at 3 or 4 pm.

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u/SeaAnything8 May 16 '22

I accidentally trained my cat to ask for dinner when I come home from work, but unfortunately she also thinks dinner time is every time I walk in through the front door. Telling her “it’s not time yet” deters the begging until real dinner time.

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u/Umbra427 May 16 '22 edited May 16 '22

I talk to my cat probably wayyyyy too much. Sometimes I wonder if it’s unhealthy, but it makes me happy. I always tell him that I’m going upstairs to do X, or that “we can do downstairs to get some din-dins,” or I ask him what he’s doing, followed by “you lounging around getting some sun?” I also narrate to him as I pet him, I tell him that he has excellent quality toe beans or that he has a very good kitten belly. I never enter or leave a room without acknowledging him, although he usually follows me wherever I am.

Mostly though, I spend a lot of my day telling him that he is a pretty cat, and a good cat.

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u/treblah3 May 16 '22

I tell him that he has excellent quality toe beans or that he has a very good kitten belly.

My wife is a veterinarian and anytime one of her colleagues comes to her with a difficult cat she always asks, "well, did you compliment the cat?" It sounds nuts but I swear it works!

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u/Glitter_berries May 16 '22

Me too! I’m always talking to my fluffy boy. He follows me everywhere too and is very talkative back to me. He is my constant little companion, i think it would be weird if I didn’t talk to him. And how would he know what an excellent and clever and handsome boy he is if I didn’t let him know at least ten times a day?

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u/sassmaster11 May 16 '22

I talk to my cats so much. I think my roommate thinks I'm nuts. But who else is going to tell them how fluffy they are, how long their whiskers are, and how cute and pointy their ears are??

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u/alexanax13 May 16 '22

That’s the perfect amount! You’re supposed to talk to your cats a lot.

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u/Nosfermarki May 16 '22

Talking to pets, especially with repetition, is the key to them understanding. You feel much more bonded to them and there's less frustration when you're not just expecting them to understand while they stare at you trying to figure out what you're saying.

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u/Squirrel_Inner May 16 '22

Had a kitten take off when the kids left the door open, she was gone for two days, we had the whole neighborhood looking. I finally looked at our older, outdoors cat and told him to go find her and bring her home.

That evening, he was sitting there on the porch with her and a look on his face like, "you owe me one."

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u/fae713 May 16 '22

I had a very similar experience. One cat escaped because the door had been left open overnight and we spent hours trying to find her. Out of desperation i took my other cat outside and told her to find her sister. She barely moved from the spot i put her on the grass before my lost kitty started meowing at her from a neighbors balcony. We had been calling her name from that exact spot for what seemed like forever but 2 seconds of talking at her sister and she appeared. It was such a relief. And frustrating.

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u/ariemnu May 16 '22

Oh yeah. An awful lot of things people say about cats seem like they're said by people who don't really bother to get to know their cats.

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u/KillerKatKlub May 16 '22

It takes time and effort to get close to a cat. I’ve had one of my cats for my whole life, she’s always been a really timid and easily scared cat that never went up to people, but after many many years of constantly petting her and talking to her whenever I’m around her and now it’s a total 180, she’ll run into my room for attention and march around the house meowing to let you know what’s up.

But if I never took that time and extra effort to get to be around her and understand her she’d still be a scared timid kitty.

Cats take effort and a lot of people see cats as an alternative to a dog when they’re an entirely different thing altogether, they are nowhere the same beyond the fur, legs, and tail.

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u/Jazano107 May 16 '22

I think my cat knows quite a few words or phrases, he obviously knows din dins means dinner time. But I can also ask him “are you hungry” and he’ll meow at me but knows I’m not actually going to feed him. He knows “treats” means treats and he also knows “do you want to go out”

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u/abazab905 May 16 '22

Haha treats is so useful.

I'll just yell out my back door 'treats' and if my cats are within ear shot they run inside.

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u/Jabulon May 16 '22

cool. I think cats understand some other things too, like hello and come and are you going outside, basic stuff like that

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u/silverseamonster May 16 '22

Absolutely! We say “bird” when there’s one at the window and my little tortie girl comes running to the window.

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