Most cat parents can’t help but use a cute voice when talking to their fur babies. And most of the time, it seems like our cats understand us and recognize when we’re talking to them versus when other people are. But is it just our love for our pets that makes us think they’re listening? Not exactly — scientists have found evidence that felines can understand when we talk to them directly and distinguish that from when adults talk to each other, according to a new study.
Researchers tested 16 different cats by playing recordings to the cats in their homes in order to see if the cats could differentiate between their owners’ voices and the voices of strangers. When 10 out of the 16 cats heard the voice of their owners, they did things such as swishing their tails or widening their pupils or perking up their ears, but they did not respond when they heard their owners talking to other people. They also didn’t change their behaviour when hearing strangers speak.
Cats being able to tell the difference between cat-directed speech (CDS) — AKA the cute, baby tone of voice we use to talk to cats (and other cute creatures) — and regular adult-directed speech (ADS) is a finding that brings “a new dimension to the consideration of human–cat relationship.”
“There is really a special communication that develops between every owner and their cat,” said the study’s lead author, Charlotte de Mouzon in National Geographic.
See also: All cat breeds as zodiac signs.
“The fact that they’re attentive to the different ways we speak to them, it shows how important we are to them outside of just feeding them or giving them shelter.”
de Mouzon also added that the research is good news for owners who want to feel confident their pets are listening to them. “Even knowing cats aren’t human babies,” she said, “we can still talk to them in a way they’re sensitive to and that can reinforce our bond.”
You may also like: 10 pet beds your furry friends will love snuggling up in.