For thousands of years, humans have lived with cats. But there is still so much we don’t know about our furry feline companions.
For example, do they really know and care about us? (AKA, the ones that pet them, feed them, and provide them with love, care, and attention?). If you were to ask a cat-lover, they would likely give you a resounding yes.
And now that sentiment is backed up in science. A new study has found that cats learn and remember the names of their humans.
A new first-of-its-kind study carried out at Kyoto University in Japan assessed a number of cats to figure out whether they know the names of their own family (both furry and human).
First, researchers showed 48 cats (who were either pets or lived in cat cafes) photos of other cats they were familiar with. At the same time as showing the image, they would either say the photographed cat’s real name or a false name. Next, they showed a new group of 26 cats images of the humans they live with.
In both sections of the experiment, the cats indicated that they knew the names of the other cats and the humans.
How do cats know our names?
When a false name was given, the cats would stare at the image for longer, which researchers say indicates confusion. They did this more for their fellow cats, but they did it enough with the humans to indicate some ability to learn their names, too.
Factors that impacted the cat’s ability to remember human names included things like the length of time they’ve been living with them and the number of people they live with.
As you would expect, if they’ve been with one family for a long time, they found it easier to remember the names of the humans and cats in that family. But researchers also discovered that the more people in the family, the easier it was for the cats to remember names.
They speculated that this is likely because in large families, they “have more opportunities to hear names being used.”
The study authors also noted that more research was needed to determine why cats learn names.
Per the Telegraph, they said: “It might be asked what motive cats have for remembering names. One possible explanation has to do with competition.”
“For example, a cat might receive food when the owner calls her name but not when she calls another cat’s name,” they added. “The fact that humans are probably not in competition with cats might explain the weaker association between human names and faces.”