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How many words can a cat understand?

Scientists have taken an interest in the comprehension abilities of cats and reveal the number of words that felines are able to understand.


Cats are able to recognize their name (photo illustration).
© Photo by Laurie Cinotto / Moment RF / CHATS-Laurie Cinotto/Getty Images

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LMany cat owners try to communicate with their hairball. But are they able to understand what humans are saying? According to a study published by, cats generally “understand” between 20 and 40 words. A number that can go up to 50 for some pets.

However, it is more accurate to say that they “separate and associate words with certain things instead of understanding them”, emphasize the scientists behind this study. “Cats recognize more than they understand what humans say because they lack the cognitive abilities to interpret human language,” they develop. It’s kind of the same for humans: we manage to pick up on what cats are trying to tell us when they meow or scratch at the door, but no one can claim to speak the language of cats.

Simple and short words

Cats would thus simply be able to recognize their name, but also to associate certain words, gestures or tones with food, rewards, petting or any other action. However, researchers believe that cats, like small children, better understand short and simple words, as well as those that are repeated regularly, such as “kibble”, “food”, “come”, etc.

On the other hand, cats would not be able to understand humans when they try to meow…



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