A new study says that cats can learn and react to the sound of their own name. It also claims to be the first experimental evidence that cats can discern human speech.
The results publishedThursday in journal Scientific Reports do not suggest cats can attach meaning to words or understand their name refers to their identity, researcher Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo explained.
Rather, Japanese scientists documented that cats reacted differently to their own name as compared to other words — they perked up.
That happens because the animals hear their name often and begin to respond to the word, Saito explained. Cats learn that their name is often followed by rewards such as food or play — but sometimes before negative events like a visit to the vet.
The new study confirms that "cats are paying attention to you, what you say and what you do, and they're learning from it," said Monique Udell, who also studies animal behavior at Oregon State.