It turns out cats aren’t the sociopaths we thought they were. Having treated their owners with contempt since 7500BC, researchers have discovered that kitties do actually know our names, as well as recognising their feline friends.
Authors of the Kyoto University study looked at 48 cats which lived with at least two other pets, either in a family home or a “cat cafe” (whatever that is? “I’ll have a full cream saucer of milk and mouse panini to go, please”).
Each animal heard a recording of their owner calling the name of a cat they lived with. Then either a picture of that cat flashed up on a computer screen, or a picture of a different cat in their household (and they say royal reporting is a ridiculous way to earn a living).
The 19 cats from family homes spent longer staring at the picture when it did not show the cat whose name had been called – apparently a common reaction is that animals are surprised.
A separate experiment showed cats either a picture of their owner or themselves when their name was called, and although the 26 cats surveyed did less well in this study overall, those living in a bigger family stared for longer when the picture and name didn’t match.
I’m not sure how scientific this study is. For the hour she deigns to be awake per day, Baroness Lionel of Blair spends about 55 minutes of it staring into space. The other five minutes are spent greedily gobbling up whatever food has been given to her. It could be by us – it could be complete strangers.
I would humbly suggest that cats know multiple owners, and none of them by name.