Cats Recognize Their Own Names--Even If They Choose to Ignore Them
Cats are notorious for their indifference to humans: Almost any owner will testify to how readily these animals ignore us when we call them. But according to a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports, domestic cats do recognize their own names—even if they walk away when they hear them.
Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist at the University of Tokyo, previously showed that cats can recognize their owners’ voices. In her latest study she narrowed this down, investigating whether they respond to hearing their names. The study included 78 cats from Japanese households and a “cat café.” (Such cafés, where patrons can interact with felines, are popular in Tokyo and have started to catch on in London and New York.)
During their experiments Saito and her colleagues used what behavioral psychologists call the habituation-dishabituation method. This involves repeatedly exposing a subject to a stimulus (in this case a spoken word) until the subject no longer displays any reaction. Then the subject is presented with a test stimulus (in this case, its name), and researchers observe whether it reacts. This step helps rule out responses to random stimuli.