Does your cat understand when you talk to him? A scientific study has the answer

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When you talk to your cat, do you think he understands you? French researchers studied the behavior of several cats and found the answer.

Your cat understands when you talk to him: you are convinced of this by seeing his reaction. But is this really the case? How do cats perceive and react to human speech? To finally have an answer to this question, three French researchers published a study at the end of October. Charlotte de Mouzon, Marine Gonthier and Gérard Leboucher are ethologists, that is to say, specialists in animal behavior. Their work was published in the scientific journal Pet Cognition.

Sixteen cats participated in the study. Their masters are students at the Maisons-Alfort veterinary school in the Paris region. The experiment was conducted in a classroom equipped with cat toys and litter boxes.

Normal voice and “baby” voice

First experience. The cats are in the room. Their masters are seated next to them. A recording broadcasts the voices of their masters asking five questions like “do you want to play?” or “Do you want something to eat?” The first three questions are asked in a normal voice as if the masters were addressing another human. The fourth question is asked with a “baby” voice because the human often takes on a higher tone when addressing his animal with trailing vowels. The fifth again with a normal tone.

The researchers also observed and noted the behavior of the cats: does he look for where the sound is coming from, does he turn his head or does he stop grooming, for example. On the first three questions, the cats became less and less attentive, ranging from 13/20 to 4/20. At the baby’s voice, the attention rose to 14/20. On the fifth question, attention dropped to 6/20.

Second experience. It is identical to the first except that cats hear the voice of another human, not that of their master. Their level of attention continuously drops from 15/20 to 5/20. This time, the baby’s voice does not make them react.

The cat reacts to a particular voice of its master

It emerges from this study, identified by West Francethat cats understand that you are talking to them but that they only react to the voice of their master when he is talking to them in a certain way.

“For decades, we thought that cats were very independent beings, who only cared about having food and a roof,” explains Charlotte de Mouzon in her study. The study shows “proof of the attachment that exists between cats and humans”.

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