Does my cat really understand what I say to him? This is the question that arises, at one time or another, any feline owner. If their jaded attitude may suggest the opposite, 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 studied how felines interpret our way of speaking. To do this, the researchers watched how 16 cats reacted to phrases pre-recorded by their owner and a stranger. They noted their behavior change during listening, such as the movements of their tail and their ears or if they stopped what they were doing at that time. These are all signs that they believe could indicate that a sound has caught the animal’s attention.
Scientists have noticed that cats react little to the voice of a stranger calling their name. But, when their owners did, 10 of the 16 felines engaged in a series of behaviors suggesting they were paying close attention to what they were hearing. They also showed more signs of interest when they heard their master say sentences in the tone he usually uses to address them.
However, 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 sentence as if addressing another adult human, and not them. In other words, if you’re used to talking to your furball in a smirk, 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 affection for their master, and that they only show them affection to satisfy certain primary needs. “Cats have long been thought to be very independent creatures, only interested in [les humains pour] eat and shelterbut the fact that they react specifically to their owner, and not just anyone talking to them, supports the idea that they are capable of attachment,” Charlotte de Mouzon told the Guardian. “This provides further evidence to encourage humans to view cats as sensitive individuals who know how to communicate”.
This a priori comes from the fact that the cat is a semi-domesticated animal. He knows how to live very well without humans, unlike dogs, and does not hesitate to let us know while maintaining a form of independence. But this autonomy does not mean that he does not feel affection for his master, as John Bradshaw, an expert in 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 grooming. Something to comfort cat owners about the affection that their four-legged friend has for them.
(ETX Daily Up)