If you’ve ever owned a cat, then you’re probably sure of two things – that cats own people and not the other way around, and that your cat only responds to you when he or she feels like it.
Which is why it’s never been clear (or really studied) whether or not cats have the ability to learn their own names.
Researcher Atsuko Kaito of Sophia University in Tokyo set out to find the answer to the question, testing the capacity of various cats to distinguish their names from other nouns. The researchers observed cats’ reactions to hearing their own names and compared those reactions to those displayed when the cats heard words of similar length, as well as the names of other cats in the home.
Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, reveal that the majority of cats do comprehend their names, moving their ears and heads more strongly than they did to the other, even similar, words. That said, the cats never seemed excited to hear their name, and responded just as often to the names of the other cats in their household.
Which is all to say that, while your cat probably recognizes that you’re talking to or calling it, whether or not they respond depends on their mood at the moment…and they’re not going to be excited about it, regardless.