If you’ve ever wondered if your cat doesn’t give a damn about your whereabouts, the research may have an answer: Cats seem to track their owners as they move around the house and are surprised if they show up somewhere they aren’t expected.
The finding supports the idea that cats retain a mental representation of their owners, even when they cannot see them; a crucial bridge to higher cognitive processes such as advance planning and imagination.
Cats are notoriously inscrutable creatures. Although previous research has suggested that cats will look in the right place if food is seen to disappear and expect to see their owner’s face if they hear their voice, it was unclear how this ability translated into real life. “Is [also] said that cats are not as interested in their owners as dogs, but we had doubts on this point, ”said Dr. Saho Takagi from Kyoto University, Japan.
To investigate, Takagi and his colleagues recorded what happened when 50 domestic cats were individually locked inside a room and repeatedly heard their owner call to them from outside, followed by the voice of a stranger or their owner, through a loudspeaker. on the opposite side of the room they inhabited.
Eight “blind” human observers observed these recordings and rated the cats’ level of surprise based on their ear and head movements. Only when the voices of their owners suddenly appeared within the room, implying that they had somehow teleported there, did the cats appear confused.
“This study shows that cats can mentally map their location based on their owner’s voice,” said Takagi, whose research was published in the procedures of the National Academy of Sciences. “[It suggests] that cats have the ability to imagine the invisible in their minds. Cats [may] have a deeper mind than you think. “
However, it’s not entirely surprising that cats possess this ability: “That awareness of movement, tracking things they can’t see, is critical to a cat’s survival,” said Roger Tabor, biologist, author and host of the series. television station BBC Cats.
“A lot of what a cat has to interpret in its territory is awareness of where other cats are. It is also important for hunting: how could a cat catch a field vole moving under the grass if it could not use clues, such as the occasional whisper, to see in its mind where they are? The owner of a cat is extremely important in his life as a source of food and security, so where we are is very important. “
Anita Kelsey, a UK feline behaviorist and author of Let’s Talk About Cats, said: “Cats have a close relationship with us and most feel established and secure within our company, so our human voice would be part of that. bond or relationship. When dealing with cats suffering from separation anxiety, I generally do not advocate touching the owner’s voice in the home, as this can cause anxiety and the cat hearing the voice, but not knowing where their human is. “
Interestingly, the cats did not show the same surprise response when the owners’ voices were replaced by cat meows or electronic sounds. Possibly, this is because adult cats do not tend to use their voice as their main means of communication with each other, many can rely on other signals, such as smell.
“The ‘meow’ we used in this study is a voice signal that is only emitted to humans, except kittens,” Takagi said. “Cats may not be able to identify people from other people’s ‘meowing’.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism