Does my cat really understand what I say to him? This is the question that arises, at one time or another, every cat owner. If their exhausted attitude suggests otherwise, cats understand our words well. But only if they emanate from their master, according to a new French study.
Charlotte de Mouzon and her colleagues from the University of Paris Nanterre have investigated how felines interpret our way of speaking. To do this, the researchers watched how 16 cats responded to sentences pre-recorded by their owner and a stranger. They noticed that their behavior changed while listening, such as the movements of their tail and their ears, or if they stopped what they were doing at the time. These are all signs that they believe could indicate that a sound has caught the animal’s attention.
Researchers have noticed that cats react slightly to the voice of a stranger calling their name. But when their owners did so, 10 of the 16 felines engaged in a range of behaviors that indicated they were paying close attention to what they were hearing. They also showed more signs of interest when they heard their master say phrases in the tone he normally uses to address them.
But the animals seemed uninterested in what a stranger was saying to them using the same tone to get their attention. Even more surprisingly, they hardly reacted when their owner said the same phrase as if they were addressing another adult human, and not them. In other words, if you’re used to talking to your furball with a smile, chances are he’ll ignore you if you change your tone.
This study, recently published in the journal Animal Cognition, contradicts the generally accepted idea that cats have no love for their masters and that they only show them affection to satisfy certain primal needs. “Cats have long been considered to be very independent creatures, interested only in [les humains pour] food and shelterbut the fact that they respond specifically to their owner, and not just anyone who speaks to them, supports the idea that they are able to bond, Charlotte de Mouzon told the Guardian. “This provides further evidence to encourage humans to see cats as sensitive individuals who know how to communicate”.
This comes a priori from the fact that the cat is a semi-domesticated animal. He knows how to live very well without people, unlike dogs, and does not hesitate to let us know, while maintaining a kind of independence. But this autonomy does not mean that he does not feel affection for his master, as John Bradshaw, an expert on cat behavior at the University of Bristol, explains in his book “Cat Sense” (Basic Books, 2013).
After observing domesticated cats for years, the academic came to the conclusion that our feline friends behave with us as they would with any of their fellow creatures. Hence the fact that they rub against us, or lick us as nurturers. Something to comfort cat owners with the affection their four-legged friend has for them.
(ETX Daily Up)