Cats can recognize their names, but that doesn’t mean they care.

Cats are nefarious, every cat owner will testify to that. They are known for their indifference to humans. A new study shows that cats do recognize their names, even if they choose to ignore you when you call them. This shows the extent to which cats have been ignoring us all this time.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, behavioral scientist Atsuko Saito and her colleagues at Sofia University in Tokyo conducted a series of experiments that involved 78 cats from both ordinary households and a cat café to determine cats’ responses to their own names.

Saito and her colleagues exposed the cats first to four words that sounded similar to their names. This was done repeatedly until the cats habituated to those words and stopped responding. Then, the owners said the cats’ actual names and the researchers looked at whether individual cats were able to recognize their names. The results were then recorded on video and carefully analyzed. It appeared that cats had more pronounced responses, such as ear moving, head moving, vocalizing, and tail moving, to their names than to other similar words or to other cats’ names.

The researchers also tested if the cats would respond to their names if they were said by unfamiliar people other than their owners. Although their responses were not as pronounced as before, they seem to still recognize their monikers.

The researchers conclude that their first-of-its-kind experimental results clearly show that “cats can discriminate human utterances based on phonemic differences”. This encompasses a negative dimension somehow. Now we know that our cats understand us all the time; they simply choose to ignore us.

This is not what Saito believes, though. She explains that “cats are not evolved to respond to human cues.” She adds: “they will communicate with humans when they want to. That is the cat.”

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