We think so much about how to choose a name for our cats, we call them by that name every day. We even sign their names on birthday or holiday cards.
Eventually, we become attached to our pet’s name but have you ever thought about what your cat thinks about his name? Dogs are specially trained to recognize their names.
However, Cats are much more independent. Most people don’t bother to train their cats, so does that mean they never learn to recognize their names?
My family’s cat, Rico, always runs when he hears his name. But my cat Lilly usually ignores me, no matter how many times I say, “Hey, Lilly.”
I think most people agree that cats are weird creatures and it’s not easy to understand their thoughts and behavior. However, studies and research have been conducted on whether cats recognize their names or not.
One of the most famous studies on the Issue of cats recognizing their names was conducted in Japan by behavioral scientist Atsuko Saito.
In order to recognize how cats know language and process certain words, Saito observed 78 different cats from both a cat café and households.
The researchers began saying four words that sounded like the cat’s name, over and over again, until the cat stopped responding.
Then,they got the cat’s owner (if there was one) to say the cat’s real name.
By observing the cat’s response and noting things like ear twitching, head tilting, and meowing, they realized that cats can indeed distinguish their names from similar-sounding words.
To go further in the experiment, Saito had strangers say the cats’ names. They detected that while the cats’ reactions were not as obvious, they still recognized when their names were called.
Do Cats Associate Names?
While the majority of researchers admit that Saito’s study proves that cats recognize their names, but, there is still some doubt as to whether or not cats associate these names with themselves.
Saito shows in her study that there is no clear evidence that cats have a sense of identity like humans.
Accordingly, they may recognize their name as a usual word, but they do not internally refer to that as their proper name.
On the other hand, It is possible that felines recognize their names based on associations.
This is the same concept that is similar to training a dog to react to his name. Yet cats usually do this by themselves, without undergoing specific training.
Rather than recognizing their name as a personal identifier, they are more likely to have developed other associations.
Predominantly, this association is some kind of positive reinforcement, such as a treat or attention.
Cats recognize that if you say their name, you are also likely to scratch their ears or give them food. They enjoy these things, so they are ready to pay attention when they are called by that name.
And since cats are independent pets, they’re more likely to ignore their name when they’re not happy. If they don’t feel like being petted at the moment, they will ignore their name, even if they recognize the word.
Cats are Still Changing
Our knowledge about cats nowadays is based on only a few actual scientific studies. Cats were domesticated about 10,000 years ago, but their attitude toward humans is constantly changing.
Many decades ago, it was uncommon to keep a cat exclusively indoors. It was even rarer to spoil the cat with his own bed, toys, and treats. Most cats were used for pest control, and they were kept outside.
Therefore, cats were not bred to recognize their name like dogs. Dogs have been brought up for hundreds of years to work at the side of humans, and reacting to their name has always been crucial.
Social evolution happened differently in cats, and it’s still evolving.
Since our relationships with cats are still changing, chances are higher that cats themselves will evolve as well.
It is obvious that They are not as easy to train as dogs, but that is because dogs have the distinct advantage of having evolved in close cooperation with humans.
While more people choose to treat their cats like real family members, cats may apparently recognize their names and even be trained in other areas like dogs.
Teach Your Cat Their Names
Training your cat can be more difficult than training your dog, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.
Training your cat to recognize his name is somewhat easy. You can start by repeating his name and linking his response with positive reinforcement.
For instance, say your cat’s name when he is attentive but not necessarily listening to you. Repeat it several times until your cat decides to look in your direction.
Once the kitty does, give her a treat or reward. Repeat this over and over until your cat associates her name with a reward. If you have a particularly hard-to-please or obstinate cat, you have to use an extra motivating treat.