Study Reveals that Cats Memorize Their Friends’ Names


Cats are naturally independent animals who can catch their food, self-groom, and keep themselves entertained for a couple of hours. Various studies have been carried out to prove this finding, and it has been severally proven that cats could easily recognize their names, other cats’ names, and the names of the people living in their homes. Further studies have also suggested that domestic cats share the same language recognition skills as dogs. According to ExtremeTech, the most considerable research on this study was by the researchers from Kyoto University, who closely monitored domestic cats and “café cats,” who interacted mostly with different people. During their study, they demonstrated how cats could easily recognize their names and friends’ names in a series of image displays and spoken words. In this post, we will take a closer look at the various studies that suggest that cats memorize friends’ names as well as their names.


In a research paper published on April 13, some researchers examined 48 domestic cats on the names of their fellow with whom they shared the same home environment. In this study, twenty-nine of these cars were from Japanese cat cafés that freely interacted with different cats and customers. The remaining nineteen came from private residences that presumably owned three or more cats in each residence. Once all the cats were obtained, the researcher played various audio recordings of the cat’s owners calling the name of another cohabitating cat several times. After the fourth call, the researchers then showed the examined cat various familiar pictures on a laptop monitor –one of the pictures showed the face of the cat that the owner was calling. In contrast, the other pictures displayed different photos of cohabitating cats that were not called by the cat’s owner. The researchers later found that the domestic cats stared at the laptop monitor longer when a different picture of a cohabitating cat was displayed on the screen.

This suggested that the cat the domestic cats had a difficult time trying to figure out why the displayed faces of their feline friends did not match the called-out names. The researchers concluded their research by proving that cats can naturally associate their companion’s name and face without any explicit training. For the café cats, the researchers claimed that they did not pay much attention to the pictures displayed on the monitor and paid even lesser attention during the overall trials compared to the domestic cats. They then concluded that café cats are less familiar with the names and corresponding faces of their fellow friends than domestic cats. The main challenge experienced when carrying out this experiment was maintaining the cat’s focus. While the domestic cats focused on the displayed images for a longer time, especially on the incongruous photos, the café cats barely paid attention to any of the pictures on the laptop monitor. In the study, the researchers claimed that one of the café cats refused to stare at the monitor completely and had to be removed from the study. Nonetheless, the researchers also concluded that domestic cats are more likely to recognize their companion’s faces and names during feeding time.

The Study

A team of researchers at Kyoto University located in Japan, recently experimented to determine whether animals can attach human speech labels to other living beings. Their research decided to focus on cats, who later found out that cats not only attach human speech labels to objects surrounding them but also can recognize the name of their fellow cohabitating cats. In the study, it was also concluded that home cats could learn to memorize the name of family members. Meanwhile, the café cats displayed no significant difference in their reaction when they were shown pictures of cats on the monitors of those they knew and did not know. The researchers attributed this behavior to café cats that are not often called by their names compared to cats living in homes. Much like the first experiment, the researcher performed another study to determine whether cats could recognize the names of their owners and their family members. The result was similar to the first experiment where the domestic cats often stared at the laptop monitor when the facial images of unnamed people were displayed on the screen. This suggested that they were already familiar with the names of their owners and their family members as well. According to LiveScience, only domestic cats anticipated a specific person’s or cat’s name upon hearing their names, suggesting that they matched a specific individual’s face with their name.

How best can you tell if your cat knows your name?

While further research is needed to help understand how cats have learned to memorize the names and faces of their friends, researchers have formulated several hypotheses that try to explain why household cats demonstrated a better name-face association compared to café cats. They have suggested that cats living in cafés often hear different names called by different customers, thus, making it harder for them to learn specific cats and person names. Additionally, another reason that may influence the cat’s poor name-face association is the large number of cats that they live with. Researchers have suggested that more cats presumably means reduced opportunities to become familiar with a certain cat or person’s name-identity relationships. During the research, it was further concluded that domesticated cats, especially those that lived with their family for a long time, exhibited the longest duration while staring at the monitor when the face and name of the displayed picture were mismatched. Based on the study, there are various ways you can practice to help increase the likelihood of your cats memorizing your name. According to Nature, the most recommended method by scientists is to spend as much time as possible with your cats; since the more time you spend with your cat, the more you increase the ability of your cat to recognize your name easily.

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