Cats understand when people are sad

Japanese researchers confirm: cats can understand people

For many cat lovers one thing is clear: their four-legged friends know their own name and react to it. Scientists have now been able to prove that - and plan to teach the cats even more.

When Minka is called, Minka comes too. At least when there is a treat or a cuddle unit to dust off with the owner and she is just in the mood. Even if cats have a mind of their own: that they recognize their name and react to it is a foregone conclusion for their owners. So far, however, there has been no scientific evidence. Japanese researchers are now presenting them.

Domestic cats can actually hear their name out of other words, write Atsuko Saito from Sophia University in Tokyo and his team in the journal Scientific Reports. It is the first experimental evidence that cats can understand verbal utterances of humans.

How cats can understand humans has only recently been explored

According to the Japanese researchers, research into the ability of cats to communicate with people has only recently started. It was found, for example, that cats understand when their owner shows them the way to their food with a finger. Until now it was always known that cats, unlike dogs, do not understand that the finger should point to something distant. In addition, cats change their behavior, at least in part, depending on whether their master looks grim or friendly.

Saito's team examined a total of 78 cats. Among other things, the researchers looked at how the animals react when they first hear four general Japanese words from the tape. The cats' attention decreased more and more. Then their own name was played to them. The researchers made sure that the words sounded similar to the cat's name and that they were stressed the same.

Cat expert considers study to be carried out seriously

The result: the majority of the cats responded to their names. They moved their ears or their heads more. The effect could also be observed when it was not the cat owner himself who spoke to the animal, but a stranger. In another experiment, the researchers were able to show that cats from households with more than one house tiger can presumably be able to distinguish their name from the others.

The recognized cat expert and popular scientist Dennis Turner considers the study to be "seriously carried out", but he is not really surprised. "Cats are very intelligent and adaptive animals - if they are ready to participate," says Turner, who was not involved in the study. However, most owners lose patience before their darling has learned something.

Now the researchers want to train the cats with special skills

There are well over ten million cats in Germany. According to the industry association for pets, more than one in five households had one or more cats in 2017. The results from Japan are certainly transferable to German cats, said Turner. "I don't expect any differences in vowel behavior or in the ability to recognize names."


The Japanese researchers write that the ability of cats results from the daily contact with humans and animals. They suggest using the potential: "Perhaps we can get cats to learn to associate dangerous objects or places with certain sounds."