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The research was performed largely within the lab of Professor Toshikazu Hasegawa from the University of Tokyo with Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., first author of the research paper. Saito is now an associate professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.
This is the first project to study cats' ability to understand human voices. Other research projects have discovered that apes, dolphins, parrots, and dogs can understand some words spoken by humans.
Saito - Mammals - Dolphins - Apes - Animals
Saito speculates that mammals like dolphins and apes are naturally social animals and are therefore more inclined to interact with humans and respond to human cues.
"In comparison to those other species, cats are not so social. Cats interact with us when they want," said Saito.
Projects - Behaviors - Name - Recognition - Cats
Projects to understand simple social behaviors like name recognition in cats may give clues to how we humans became social. Both humans and cats have evolved through the process of self-domestication, where the population rewards certain traits that then become increasingly common in future generations.
"There may be a common feature in the evolutionary process of sociality between humans and cats. Since cats are still evolving to become more domesticated, there is a possibility that we can see the process of evolution of sociality by investigating the social cognition in cats," said Saito.
What's in a name?
To test if a cat recognized its name, researchers tested the name against other similar-sounding nouns. For example, a cat named Kari would also hear recordings of the words hifu (skin) and shuto (capital city).
Researchers - Recordings - Voices - Cat - Owner
Researchers played recordings of their own voices and the cat's owner's voice saying five words: the first four words were the similar-sounding nouns and the final, fifth word was the cat's name.
Researchers decided that cats responded to their name if they ignored recordings of other words, but moved their ears or heads when they heard their name. Cats rarely responded more...
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