Here's Proof Your Cat Is Listening to You

Study finds that felines recognize and respond to their owner's voice
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2022 2:09 PM CDT
Here's Proof Your Cat Is Listening to You
   (Getty/Nils Jacobi)

A new study should make cat owners happy—it suggests felines do indeed listen to their humans. The research published in Animal Cognition found that cats can distinguish their owner's voice from that of a stranger, one of the first studies to do so, reports National Geographic. What's more, the cats can figure out (thanks to tone) when their owner is talking to them as opposed to another human, per PhysOrg. The wonky view of all this: "These findings bring a new dimension to the consideration of human-cat relationship, as they imply the development of a particular communication into human-cat dyads, that relies upon experience," the authors write.

The less-wonky view, one with no mention of "dyads," is more like this: "It’s a fascinating study ... that further supports the idea that our cats are always listening to us," animal behaviorist Kristyn Vitale of Unite College tells Science. The study, led by Charlotte de Mouzon of Paris Nanterre University, was a small one with only 16 cats. The research team played different recordings for the cats—of their owner talking and a stranger talking, sometimes to the cats and sometimes as if they were addressing another person.

What became clear from the cats' reactions—swishing their tails, turning their ears to the sound, and pausing their self-grooming—is that they could tell the difference between what researchers call cat-directed sound (CDS) and adult-directed sound (ADS). And they seemed to perk up only when it was their owner partaking in the CDS, not the stranger. An example of cat-directed sound? The post at Science has that covered: Think "Whooo’s a pretty kitty?" cooed in baby talk. "The fact that they're attentive to the different ways we speak to them, it shows how important we are to them outside of just feeding them or giving them shelter," de Mouzon tells National Geographic. (Read more cats stories.)

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