Bizarre Science: Feline Familiarity  

A new study in the journal Nature has confirmed that cats can identify the names of other felines. Whilst it may come as no surprise to those who keep them as pets, cats are highly intelligent animals, and the new study confirms this. When the sound of a fellow cat being called its name by its owner was heard, the cat in the test was able to identify an image of the cat in question.  

The study took into account the differences between “cafe cats”, cats that stay in cat cafes, a common business model in Japan, and house cats. The researchers noted that the house cats were often much better at being able to distinguish other cats by name compared to the cafe cats. In addition to this, house cats often took a longer interest in the images shown to them on the screen, an effect which was compounded in cats that had spent long periods with their owners. Researchers put this linkage of images and sound to a phenomenon known as signal-meaning pairs, showing that cats have some form of social cognition that was able to take place without explicit training.  

The Japanese researchers believe further study will help understand how this link between faces and names occurs in cats. They hope studying objects without previous associations for the pets will prove whether they can remind themselves of the names of objects that don’t have emotional connections.  

Whether or not this is proved, the study highlights how intelligent domesticated felines can be. Being able to identify human voices and other cats’ names proves that, whilst cuddly, there is more than meets the eye to our fluffy friends.  

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George Barsted

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August 2022
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