NEW YORK -- Hey Kitty! Yes, you. A new study suggests household cats can respond to the sound of their own names.
No surprise to you or most cat owners, right? But Japanese scientists said Thursday that they've provided the first experimental evidence that cats can distinguish between words that we people say.
So you're kind of like dogs, whose communication with people has been studied a lot more, and who've been shown to recognize hundreds of words if they're highly trained. Sorry if the comparison offends you, Kitty.
Many cats initially reacted — such as by moving their heads, ears or tails — but gradually lost interest as the words were read. The crucial question was whether they'd respond more to their name.
Sure enough, on average, these cats perked up when they heard their own name.
Kristyn Vitale, who studies cat behavior and the cat-human bond at Oregon State University in Corvallis but didn't participate in the new work, said the results "make complete sense to me."
Vitale, who said she has trained cats to respond to verbal commands, agreed that the new results don't mean that cats assign a sense of self to their names. It's more like being trained to recognize a sound, she said.
Monique Udell, who also studies animal behavior at Oregon State, said the study shows "cats are paying attention to you, what you say and what you do, and they're learning from it."
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