Does my cat truly understand what I’m saying? This is the question that every cat parent finds themselves asking at one time or another. But don’t be fooled by their blasé attitude, cats are snobs and actually can understand our words. But only when they are spoken by their special human guardian, 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 pre-recorded sentences from their guardian and a stranger. The researchers noted their behavioural changes while listening, such as tail and ear movements or whether they stopped what they were doing at that moment. These are all signs that could indicate, according to them, that a sound has attracted the animal’s attention.

The scientists noticed that the cats had little response to a stranger’s voice calling their name. But when their guardians did, 10 of the 16 felines engaged in a series of behaviours that suggested they were paying close attention to what they heard. They also showed more signs of interest when they heard their guardians speak in the tone of voice they usually use to address them.

The animals, however, seemed uninterested in what a stranger said to them using the same tone to get their attention. Even more surprising was that they did not react to their guardian saying the same thing as if they were talking to another adult human, rather than to them. In other words, if you’re used to talking to your fur baby in a baby-talk manner, chances are they’ll ignore you if you change your tone.

cats snobs
Cats are snobs and choose who they answer to. And unlike dogs, they’re highly capable of living without humans. (Image: Lloyd Dirks/ Unsplash)

Cats are snobs, but are they also semi-domesticated animals?

The study, recently published in the journal Animal Cognition, contradicts the common belief that cats do not show affection to their owners, and only show affection to satisfy certain basic needs. “For a long time it has been thought that cats are very independent creatures, only interested in [humans for] eating and shelter, but the fact that they react specifically to their owner, and not just anybody addressing them, supports the idea that they are attached,” Charlotte de Mouzon told the Guardian. “It brings further evidence to encourage humans to consider cats as sensitive and communicative individuals.”

This mistaken belief comes from the fact that the cat is a semi-domesticated animal. Cats are highly capable of living without a human guardian, unlike dogs, and they don’t refrain from letting us know it by maintaining a form of independence. But this autonomy doesn’t mean that they don’t feel affection for their human guardians, as John Bradshaw, expert in cat behaviour at the University of Bristol, explains in his book “Cat Sense” (Basic Books, 2013).

After years of observing domesticated cats, the academic has come 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 themselves against us, or lick us as a form of grooming. Something that should reassure cat guardians about the affection their four-legged friend has for them.

This story was published via AFP Relaxnews

(Main and featured image: Marieclaudelemay / Getty Images)

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