Wednesday 20 September 2023

Domestic cats understand the phonetics of their name

In a study it was conclusively found that domestic cats can tell the difference between the phonetics of their name when spoken by people from the phonetics of general sounds and the phonetics of the name of other cats.
We conclude that cats can discriminate the content of human utterances based on phonemic differences.

They also found that domestic cats living in a cat cafe could do something similar but not quite as good as they could not distinguish the sound of their name from the sound of the name of cohabiting cats at the cafe.

My guess is that domestic cats living in a home have a close connection with their owner and their name is said regularly. They are trained to understand the sound of their name. In contrast cats at cafes don't have this advantage. Different people - one-off visitors - say their name in different ways and perhaps they get their name wrong. The 'training' is less intense and clear cut. It is more confusing.

When people say that cats understand their name, it's true to a large extent. However, they don't understand their name as humans understand their own names. Cats understand the sound of their name. It is only the sound, the phonetics which they detect and respond to.

Study: Domestic cats (Felis catus) discriminate their names from other words. Link:

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