As you rummage through closets and crevices trying to find your cat’s new favorite hiding place, they might also be keeping an eye on you.
A new study in Japan has found that a stationary cat can track its owner’s location using audio cues — specifically, the guardian’s voice.
Saho Takagi, the study’s first author and a doctoral student at Kyoto University, said she has always been interested in cats’ listening skills. She likes cats, but said her favorite part is the ears.
Cats have sensitive ears that can move in different directions.
“I saw a cat with only one ear tipped back, hearing the sound behind it, and I felt that they must be thinking about a lot of things from the sound,” Takagi said in an email to CNN. “This time, I investigated whether they map their owner’s position spatially from sounds.”
The study, conducted in a cat house and cafe, looked at how cats react to their owners’ voices without visual cues, using loudspeakers that play back a recording of owners saying their cats’ names.
The researchers placed the speakers separate from each other, out of sight of the cats, to see how they would respond to sounds, especially if the tutor’s voice seemed to teleport from one location to another.
Another group of people who were not experts in animal behavior rated the cat’s level of surprise on a scale of 0 to 4, based on behaviors such as ear and head movements.
The study’s cats were surprised when their owners seemed to “transport” from one location to another, the study concluded.
The results of this study demonstrate evidence of sociospatial cognition in cats, which means they can mentally imagine where others are through cues like sound.
A cat’s mind can be complex in many ways.
Other animals, such as vervet monkeys and meerkats, also demonstrate this sense. The study said that this ability to create mental images based on sounds and other stimuli indicates complex thinking.
Skill is particularly important for animals that need to hunt prey in conditions of poor visibility.
“This is a skill that underlies creativity and imagination,” said Takagi. “Cats are believed to have a deeper mind than you think.”
Ingrid Johnson, Fundamentally Feline’s Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, said cats can become attached to humans — especially when they’re older.
She said some elderly cats wake up in distress when they can’t see or hear their owners.
“This is a great example of raising our expectations of the cat a little bit and realizing that they have the ability to have that bond where they will really find comfort in the family,” Johnson said.
Studies have found that cats can also distinguish between the voices of their owners and strangers, and can recognize emotional sounds.
“Cats spend most of their time sleeping and people tend to think it’s a good thing for them to sleep,” said Takagi. “But they might be thinking about a lot of things”;
Our feline friends can be more perceptive – and listen more – than we believe.
If they choose to listen to you, though, it’s a different story (or study).
(Translated text. Read the original in English here).
Reference: CNN Brasil