Cats Can Remember Other Cats' Names, Study Reveals

Your cats are listening more than you might realize.

cats can remember each other's names

While most cat parents will probably disagree, cats often have the reputation of being aloof and standoffish. But a new study published in Scientific Reports has found that cats are listening to their parents pretty closely.

In the study of household and café cats who lived in groups of three or more, scientists from Kyoto University and other institutions in Japan have discovered that cats living in a home can learn to recognize each other’s names — and may even recognize names of family members, too.

Fascinating, right? While it’s been established that cats have excellent memories, scientists continue to broaden their knowledge of a cat’s intelligence. Maybe this is finally proof that cats aren’t so anti-social after all.

In the study, each cat listened to a voice recording of their human parent calling a cat’s name, and immediately after they were shown pictures on a monitor of cats they knew and others they didn’t know. On average, household cats spent a longer time looking at the monitor when the name being called and the photo didn’t match.

"Only household cats anticipated a specific cat face upon hearing the cat's name, suggesting that they matched the stimulus cat's name and the specific individual," the researchers write in their paper. "Upon hearing a cat’s name, the subjects expected the corresponding face."

Meanwhile, those from cat cafés showed no remarkable difference in their reactions. Researchers have determined this is because cats from cafés are called their individual names less than those who live in a home.

In a second experiment, cats were challenged on whether they could recognize the names of their humans. Much like in the first experiment, cats from larger households tended to stare longer at the facial images of unnamed people, suggesting they already know the names of their cat parents.

To increase the likelihood of your cat knowing your name, scientists suggest hanging out with him as much as possible, since the more time a cat parent spends with their kitty, the better cats can remember their humans’ names.

Saho Takagi, a research fellow who specializes in animal science and initiated the study, believes the new findings could further help prove cats' ability to understand the human language.

In an interview with Japan’s daily newspaper, The Mainichi, Takagi said, “It's been believed that cats are indifferent to things that don't benefit them, but we've learned that they pay attention to the communication between their human and feline roommates. Going forward, I want to study how cats learn the names and faces of other cats."

So, now that it’s been determined that cats are listening and they know who their kitty friends are (and you too, by the way), one thing’s for certain — the next time you’re gossiping about your cat to one of his friends, whispering might be a good idea.