recognize their own names, even if they don’t bother to respond.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, statements like this never make any sense to me:

Saito says she thinks feline pets learn to recognize their names because of what is in it for them. “I think cats associated their names with some rewards or punishments,” she says—adding that she thinks it is unlikely the cats understand their names are attached to them. “There is no evidence that cats have the ability to recognize themselves, like us,” she explains. “So, the recognition about their name is different from ours.”

My emphasis. Gee, every time I see a cat ignore itself in the mirror, instead of treating the image like another cat, I think that’s evidence of ability to recognize itself.

12 thoughts on “Cats”

  1. “Gee, every time I see a cat ignore itself in the mirror, instead of treating the image like another cat, I think that’s evidence of ability to recognize itself.”

    Or is it just recognizing that the image isn’t a real cat, just as it would recognize that a stuffed toy cat isn’t a real cat?

  2. Years ago my mother taught a televised college level Calculus, back in the Black & white TV era so a long time ago! Mom and I sat down to watch the first episode in front of the color TV (cathode ray, vacuum tubes, etc.)…

    Our two siamese cats got up to investigate why my Mother’s voice was coming from the TV. When they started sniffing the back of the TV they were shocked, *Zap!*, by the TV and we broke into laughter. At that point we were subjects of two feline glares as they sat in front of us ignoring the TV as hard as they could. How. Dare. We. Laugh. At. Them!

  3. Isn’t this an exercise in trying to use the scientific method to prove something that we can inherently understand? A kind of pointless effort except as a mental exercise. A good exercise for students, not so much for non-students.

  4. We had a Russian Blue (a stray kitten we took in), and he went through a few rough health crises. I was on business travel during one of these, and by the time I got back, he was at death’s door. My wife, kids, and I went to the vet’s office where he was being kept. The vet, normally very compassionate, was hinting that our cat would be better off dead. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t respond to anyone. He just sat and stared ahead.

    But the instant he heard my voice, he emerged from his torpor, and when I gave him some of the liquid from a can of chicken meat, he began lapping it up like crazy. That was his last major health crisis, and he pulled through completely, living to a very ripe 17 years (ancient for a Russian Blue). So, yes, cats recognize their peoples’ voices.

    Dogs are no slouches, either. When I was a teen, we had the biggest German Shepherd I’ve ever seen (more than 100 pounds, none of it fat), and the sweetest dog one could imagine. One day, I brought a full-length mirror into the room, and held it in front of myself. Our shepherd looked at the dog in the mirror, and started an ominous growl. I was certain that he was going to charge, and it would be a bad day for me. But then the most remarkable thing: I could actually see an awareness dawning on him. He came up to the mirror, and then looked behind it. Seeing only me behind it, he went back and looked at himself…and from that time on, never reacted to his own image in the mirror again. That was astonishing.

  5. Well, if animals didn’t have some ability to recognize themselves they’d never manage to drink out of a pond or puddle because they’d always get spooked by their reflection. Maybe they just have to catch on to the fact that we figured out how to make a vertical surface reflect just like a horizontal surface.

  6. I had a Tabby for 19 years and learned that, without a doubt, she not only new her name, she knew more. As she would be falling asleep, but not yet completely out, I discovered that when I said her name among a string of random names, the very tip of her tail would twitch. e.g. “Rover, Frank, Amy, Fido, Susie, Sadie, Dodger, Larry.” At ONLY “Sadie” did her tail twitch, and only when in the twilight before conking out. Well, not only “Sadie,” she also responded to “her,” “she,” and surprisingly, “idiot.” (I guess an indication of our love/hate relationship). What I realized from this were three things: 1) she not only knew her name she knew more English than I realized; 2) Sadie knew when she was being talked about, and: 3) cats do everything in their power to make it appear that they are ignoring you (which many people wrongly mistake for stupidity). Only when dozing off was her awareness reveled as she lost control of her tail muscles; her body did not move, her ears did not move, only the last two to three inches of her tail twitched. Although on “idiot” it really moved.

  7. My cat has just figured out how to remove my teabag from my tea. Unfortunately he doesn’t understand what he’s doing other than pulling on the string and making a mess.

  8. As with so many things, Heinlein got this right, in just a throwaway line:

    “Is a virus self-aware? Nyet. How about oyster? I doubt it. A cat? Almost certainly. A human? Don’t know about you, tovarishch, but *I* am.”

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