A study conducted by Japanese researchers shows that cats can link images of their human and feline companions with their names.
The researchers studied face-name recognition in cats with a simple but effective test. Pet cats were shown images of familiar humans and cats and then names were said aloud. Some of the names matched the faces and some were deliberately wrong.
The study found that correct face-name matches met the cats’ expectations, but incongruent faces and names provoked a long attending reaction, as they seemed to be processing the mismatch in their minds.
They also tested face-name recognition with a group of café cats, who were assumed to be less familiar with the faces and names of the humans and cats they interacted with in the café environment.
The results showed that only the house cats made a strong name-face connection when shown an image and heard a name while the café cats did not.
The researchers note that cats know their own names, but this study shows that they know our names and the names of their feline companions. This is a form of social learning.
While it’s not too surprising that our cats know the names of their feline housemates since we call them by their names all the time, the researchers found it interesting that many of our cats know *our* first names too!
The understanding of human faces and names was especially strong with cats that have lived with their owners for a long time, and cats that live in big families because they have more opportunities to hear our names spoken aloud than cats that live with one or two people.