Cats are notorious for ignoring their owners, but a new study suggests they recognize the sound of their names.
A group led by Sophia University Associate Professor Atsuko Saito has reported the results of its experiment in the online version of the British journal, Scientific Reports.
The group asked owners of 11 cats to repeat four words with the same length and stress as the cats' names. The owners then called out the actual names.
Nine of the cats gradually became less responsive to the four words, but displayed interest when their names were called, by moving their heads and bodies.
The scientists repeated the test with 20 pet cats and people unfamiliar to them, and found 13 respond to their names.
The researchers have concluded that cats can distinguish the sounds of their names from other words.
But they say the felines are most likely associating their names with rewards like food or caressing, and may not understand the idea that the names are assigned to them.
Sophia University's Saito says the latest experiment will provide clues about how cats developed the ability to communicate with humans.
Research on the subject has been scarce, compared to studies on dogs.