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Your Cat Knows Its Name -- It's Just Ignoring You

Not to fuel the flames of the cat vs. dog debate, but there's now a scientifically-backed chance your little feline "friend" is simply ignoring your calls.

An analysis of cat behaviour has found they can distinguish their name from other spoken words, much like the ever-reliable dog can.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by Japanese psychologist Atsuko Saito at Sophia University in a bid to gain previously unknown insights into the aloof pet.

Saito and her colleagues observed a total of 78 housecats and felines living in cat cafes in Japan -- which are extremely popular in the country -- to test whether the animals could recognise their names from other nouns, even when an unfamiliar person was speaking.

Image: Getty

The team acknowledged they only sampled one cafe and that there are a number of variables in such a group environment, but are still confident little Snowball is capable of learning the name you chose for him.

It's “the first experimental evidence showing cats’ ability to understand human verbal utterances,” the study's authors wrote.

In a series of experiments, Saito's team asked owners and strangers to utter a string of four different words in the presence of a cat, followed by the animal's own name.

Once the cat’s name was spoken, researchers looked for five specific behavioural responses: ear moving, head moving, tail moving, vocalising, and changing locations.

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The experiments demonstrated, for the most part, that cats were able to distinguish their own name from general nouns.

The cats in the cafe, however, were quite bad at discerning their own name from the names of other cafe cats.

Image: Getty

The ability of dogs to recognise names is a well-understood and studied phenomenon, but it's a relatively less understood in cats.

Comparing how the two animals respond to names is also a bit of an unfair game.

Humans have been selectively breeding dogs to be obedient and responsive for thousands of years, while cats were more or less left to domesticate themselves.

But, they may very well still be ignoring you, Saito told NewScientist.

“Cats are not evolved to respond to human cues,” she said

“They will communicate with humans when they want. That is the cat.”

Contact the author: vquested@networkten.com.au