Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus)

Department of Cognitive and Behavioral Science, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 153-8902, Japan, .
Animal Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.58). 03/2013; 16(4). DOI: 10.1007/s10071-013-0620-4
Source: PubMed


Domestic cats have had a 10,000-year history of cohabitation with humans and seem to have the ability to communicate with humans. However, this has not been widely examined. We studied 20 domestic cats to investigate whether they could recognize their owners by using voices that called out the subjects' names, with a habituation-dishabituation method. While the owner was out of the cat's sight, we played three different strangers' voices serially, followed by the owner's voice. We recorded the cat's reactions to the voices and categorized them into six behavioral categories. In addition, ten naive raters rated the cats' response magnitudes. The cats responded to human voices not by communicative behavior (vocalization and tail movement), but by orienting behavior (ear movement and head movement). This tendency did not change even when they were called by their owners. Of the 20 cats, 15 demonstrated a lower response magnitude to the third voice than to the first voice. These habituated cats showed a significant rebound in response to the subsequent presentation of their owners' voices. This result indicates that cats are able to use vocal cues alone to distinguish between humans.

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    • "Journal of Veterinary Behavior et al., 2015), following human pointing (Kraus et al., 2014), and vocal recognition (Saito and Shinozuka, 2013). To reveal genetic influences on cat behavior could further reveal the effects of domestication on social behavior as a result of genetic change. "
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    ABSTRACT: Polymorphisms of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) have been hypothesized to correlate with social behavior in humans and other mammals. We examined the relationships between owner-assessed personality and OXTR polymorphisms in cats, which have long history of domestication by humans. We analyzed the exon1 region of OXTR in 94 DNA samples (57 males and 37 females) and found 3 single nucleotide polymorphisms. We focused on the G738A polymorphism. Questionnaires containing 30 questions with 6-point scales were completed by the cats' owners. Factor analysis for the scores identified 4 factors, which we named "Openness," "Friendliness," "Roughness," and "Neuroticism." A generalized linear mixed model analysis revealed that cats with the A allele in the single nucleotide polymorphism G738A showed significantly higher roughness scores than cats without the A allele. After dividing cats into 4 sex × neutering groups, only neutered females showed the significant difference between the A allele carriers and non-A allele carriers in roughness scores. Age also affected personality: younger cats showed much higher openness scores, whereas older cats showed higher roughness scores. This study shows that genetic variation in cats may be linked to their personality traits, a finding that may be useful from the viewpoint of companion animal welfare; for example, to match potential good owners and cats using genetic information.
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    • "While this body of research suggests that domestic cats have developed a range of mechanisms that facilitate their interaction with humans (Rieger and Turner 1999; Turner and Rieger 2001; Schwartz 2002; Miklósi et al. 2005; Edwards et al. 2007; McComb et al. 2009; Saito and Shinozuka 2013; Merola et al. 2015), popular articles have often presented current cat cognition research with a negative spin. For example, one popular article stated cats are ''selfish'' and ''unfeeling'' citing Saito and Shinozuka (2013) to support the idea cats ''can hear you calling their name, but just don't really care'' because they do not approach people in the same manner as dogs when called (Stromberg 2014). Another presented the McComb et al. (2009) research as cats ''manipulating'' their owners (Young 2009). "
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    • "To best understand the potential significance of looking behaviour in the second part of the study, we assessed whether cats would take into account their owners' reaction to the fan and modulate their own actions accordingly. Although there is some evidence that cats react differently to unfamiliar versus familiar humans (Collard 1967; Casey and Bradshaw 2008) and that they recognize their owners' voices (Saito and Shinozuka 2013), no study has evaluated cat's behavioural reaction to human emotions so far. "
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