Domestic cats recognize their names, although whether or not they give a darn is entirely their decision, according to a new report. Meanwhile, dog owners are happier than cat owners, says another new report.
The two recent reports paint different pictures of how the two most common household pets have evolved since domestication, as well as how humans are affected by the presence of animals.
Cats Recognize Their Names, But They Probably Don’t Care
As Smithsonian Magazine reports, a new study by University of Tokyo researchers reveals that domestic cats may recognize their names, but often as not they’re unlikely to care.
The study’s lead author, Atsuko Saito, and his team set out to discover if cats recognize the names given to them by their owners, and to see if the animals can distinguish their names from random sounds. It turns out, they can. When they heard a neutral word that was similar in cadence and syllable structure to their name, most cats didn’t respond at all. But when they heard their name, most of them perked up.
That’s not to say that they all necessarily answered when they heard their names, but they at least appeared to recognize them.
So why are cats so standoffish, even to the point of recognizing their names but not giving a darn? Science is still working on that, but one theory is that cats, not being pack animals, simply aren’t interested in such things as obedience and pleasing their “masters.” Cats are solitary critters generally, and evolution and domestication haven’t yet given them the instinct, present in dogs, that compels them to be “obedient.”
Speaking of dogs…
Dog Owners Are Happier Than Cat Owners
As The Washington Post reports, a new survey reveals that dog owners are “much” happier than cat owners.
Specifically, 36 percent of dog owners report being “very happy,” while only 18 percent of cat owners report being “very happy.” Households where both dogs and cats are present had 28 percent of poll respondents reporting being “very happy” and 32 percent of households with neither cats nor dogs reported being “very happy.”
The reasons for this disparity remain unclear, but a few possibilities have emerged.
One possibility is that happier people are drawn to dogs in the first place. After all, dogs require considerably more care and effort than cats, and people who are already unhappy may lack the motivation required to keep up with a dog’s needs. Similarly, dogs, being pack animals, can pick up when members of their pack – viz, their owners or families – are distressed and can be comforting. A cat, on the other hand, will let you pet him only until he’s tired of it, and no longer.
Of course, measuring an animal’s intelligence is, was, and always has been a fool’s game. The ways we measure intelligence largely depend on what we bring to the table, including our expectations of how “intelligent” animals will respond. Cats may be perfectly capable of performing well on an intelligence test we give them, but if kitty isn’t interested, you won’t get good data. Or, the test we perform on kitty may not even play to his strengths.
Long story short: we don’t really know, for certain, how “intelligent” dogs are versus cats, and we lack foolproof ways of measuring that intelligence anyway. But we do know that cats, like dogs, know their names. They just don’t care.