There are many misconceptions about cats, but new studies are proving that they form closer bonds with humans than previously thought. Recently, research conducted at Paris Nanterre University's Laboratory of Compared Ethology and Cognition showed that owners change their voice when addressing their felines, usually altering it to a higher pitch. Not only that, but they also found that cats are able to recognize their owner's “cat voice” versus that of a complete stranger.
Compared to dogs, there is much less scientific evidence on the relationships between cats and their humans. This study, however, backs up what cat-lovers already know: that their felines do pay attention to them. Author Charlotte de Mouzon and her team led multiple experiments with 16 cat subjects and their respective owners. In one scenario, the researchers pre-recorded the owners' voices as well as a female stranger: all of whom addressed each cat by its name. Then, they played these voices in the cat's home to determine their reaction. Ten out of 16 cats displayed physical cues like ear movement and pupil dilation at the sound of their human's voice.
Another scenario sought to find if cats can determine their owners' “cat voices.” So, the researchers recorded the owners talking to another human and another snippet of the owner addressing their feline pet. These dialogues were played for the cat subjects, as well as an additional recording of a stranger following the same pattern. Again, the majority of the cats appeared to perk up when they heard their owners switch to their “cat voices.”
“What we found is that cats can discriminate between speech that is specifically addressed just to them by their owner from their speech addressed to other humans,” De Mouzon says. “It’s further evidence showing that there is an attachment between cats and humans. And I think that’s important to keep in mind, because for decades, we have been thinking that cats are very independent creatures, that they just want food and shelter, and that they don’t care about humans. The fact that they show a special reaction to a special way we talk to them means, I think, that we are something more just than a food provider in their world.”
A new study finds that cats are able to recognize their owner's “cat voices” and they know when humans are addressing them.