A new study from France shows your feline does, at least, know you’re speaking to them. Researchers at the Université Paris Nanterre found cats react differently when their human speaks to them than when a stranger does the same. The kitties also behaved differently when their person addressed another human.
Charlotte de Mouzon – a cat lover and animal behavior researcher – led the research, which was published in Animal Cognition. She and her team recruited 16 cats of various breeds. In a series of experiments, they observed how the felines responded to recordings of their companions and strangers talking to them or to other people.
When the felines’ human spoke to them, they exhibited subtle behaviors like swishing their tails, freezing while grooming or moving their ears. They did not respond in the same way when their human spoke to another human or when a stranger addressed them.
What This Means for Cat Parents
This is the first study to show cats can recognize and respond to their human’s voices. But the study authors acknowledge some limitations and the need for further research.
For one, the samples size was small and might not represent all felines. Also, previous research shows animals respond to the tone people use when addressing them. Most people speak differently to their pets than they would another human. Often, the tone, inflection, and pitch folks use to address their furbabies is some form of “baby talk.” So, you use the same tone to address your cat as you would your human BFF, your kitty might not realize you’re talking to them.