A small-scale study was conducted to observe 16 cats’ behavior. It has revealed that cats know when they hear their owner’s voice and that the owner’s tone is directed to them. They change their behaviors to show that they understand, according to a press release.
The study is published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Charlotte de Mouzon and colleagues from Université Paris Nanterre (Nanterre, France) gathered cats and made them listen to pre-recorded voices from both their owner and that of a stranger stating phrases in cat-directed and human adult-directed tones.
The study was made by subjecting cats to three conditions. In the first condition, the voice of the speaker changed from a stranger’s voice to the cat’s owner. The second condition included a tone change for the cat’s owner, while the third included a tone change for a stranger’s voice.
10 out of 16 cats slowed down in behavior when they heard audio clips of a stranger’s voice calling them by their name in the first condition. When the clips were changed to the owner’s voice, the cats’ behavior intensity increased again. Cats turned their ears to the speakers, their pupils dilated and moved more around the room. The first condition shows that cats can distinguish between their owner’s voice and that of a stranger.
10 cats, in the second condition, decreased their behavior when they heard their owner’s voice directed at an adult, and increased their behavior when they heard that their owner’s voice was directed at them. The third condition recorded no behavior change when a stranger’s voice was directed at someone and the cats.
According to the researchers, cats know when their owners are talking to them, and to someone else, but they don’t care when a stranger talks to them or to someone else.