Cats make great friends, but their selective listening might give the impression that they’re not as smart as dogs and other pets, and that they don’t comprehend what you’re saying. However, it’s not that straightforward. Just because cats don’t always follow commands or give you their full attention when you speak, it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack understanding. At the same time, it doesn’t guarantee that they do understand. So, do cats grasp the meaning of words?
Cats have the ability to comprehend certain words. On average, a cat can acquire a vocabulary of about 20-40 words, which includes recognizing their own name. Cats establish connections between words and vocalizations, tone of voice, and body language. Additionally, cats link words with activities such as being fed, receiving affectionate gestures, engaging in playtime, receiving rewards, and so on.
Don’t think your cat is not smart just because they have a smaller vocabulary. Cats can actually be quite clever. The thing is, vocalizations are not as important to cats as they are to you or your dog.
What Words Can Cats Understand
New cat owners often wonder if there are specific words that hold the secret to understanding their cat’s mind.
Cats actually don’t have a preference for specific words over others. They’re similar to young children in this regard. They tend to understand shorter words and the ones you use frequently the most.
It’s likely that your cat understands phrases like ‘good boy’ and ‘good girl.’ Even though they may not show it, they can comprehend that you’re pleased with them. They’re also likely to grasp words related to their food, such as ‘canned food,’ ‘kibble,’ or ‘munchies,’ if you frequently use them.
Cats easily understand the word “treats” because they are eager to know when they will receive something delicious.
However, your cat will probably comprehend words such as ‘come,’ ‘no,’ and other commands that you frequently use.
We’ve even encountered a couple of cats who grasped words such as ‘sad’ or ‘happy’ because they were highly attuned to their owners’ feelings.
The key is to figure out which words your cat is most interested in learning and which words are consistently used enough to appear significant.
Do Cats Understand Their Names
It’s a frequently asked and significant question. The good news is that your cat is likely aware of their name. However, they may not understand the significance of their name
How does that work?
Your cat might be aware that you use their name to communicate with them or grab their attention. However, experts are uncertain whether cats perceive their name as a distinct identifier for themselves or if they interpret it as a signal for ‘Pay attention!’
Some people believe that cats may link their name to actions like scratching, being petted, receiving food, or engaging in other enjoyable interactions that typically involve calling their names.
It is not clear how well cats comprehend their name because when cats are raised or live together, they often do not differentiate between each other’s names. For example, when you call one cat’s name, all of them are likely to respond. If two of your cats are closer to each other, they may both respond without the third cat paying attention.
Do Cats Understand Commands
It’s not completely clear how cats are responding to your words. Certain cats, particularly Bengal cats, quickly understand and follow commands. However, other cats may not be interested and might even appear to intentionally ignore your commands.
Although there is some debate about this, the majority of experts believe that cats can comprehend certain commands. However, they are not particularly inclined to obey, even if they comprehend.
This is because cats and dogs have evolved differently. While we domesticated dogs, cats essentially domesticated themselves.
The prevailing belief about how cats became domesticated is that they recognized the benefits of living with humans. In the past, humans would have provided environments that were appealing to rodents and other small animals. Birds would have also been more abundant near areas where grains were grown and stored.
This resulted in cats getting a lot of food. As time went on, cats started to have characteristics that made them more likable and useful to humans, such as keeping their kitten sounds like meowing and becoming less afraid of people.
Cats didn’t have a strong incentive to learn how to follow commands because they were primarily focused on coexisting. In contrast, dogs were selectively bred and trained to carry out specific tasks, which included listening to humans.
Do Cats Understand Words Like Dogs
Not really. Cats comprehend words because it helps them navigate through life more smoothly. Dogs comprehend words because they find fulfillment in having a purpose and have been selectively bred to comprehend and respond to human communication.
Although cats can understand some of the words you say and attach some meaning to them, they don’t pay attention to them in the same way dogs do. Cats are more interested in words that are relevant to them. On the other hand, dogs listen for words that are specifically directed at them and are important to you.
Generally, cats and dogs have completely different reasons for paying attention to your words.
Do Cats Understand Human Meows
Most cat lovers have probably experienced the urge to meow back at their cats, but do cats actually comprehend human meows?
Well, probably not.
In other words, what you say to your cat may not make much sense to them, and they may not find your meowing as persuasive as you do.
It’s probably similar to someone who recognizes the sound of a language without knowing any of the words. Your meows may have some significance, but your cat most likely doesn’t comprehend them.
Your cat probably knows that you’re engaging with them and giving them attention. However, imitating their meows might confuse or annoy them, depending on the specific meow and your cat’s personality.
If you decide to meow at your cat, it’s important to observe their reaction. If they appear puzzled or grateful, it’s likely okay to continue meowing, especially if they meow in response. However, if your cat seems annoyed, nervous, or worried, it’s best to minimize meowing as much as you can.
Do Cats Understand When You Talk to Them
Yes and no.
Cats most likely know that you are engaging with them. They can likely also sense your emotions by the way you speak, move, and even smell.
However, even if your cat can comprehend you when you communicate with them, it’s improbable that they grasp the majority of your words.
Do Cats Enjoy Being Talked To
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some cats like being spoken to, while others don’t seem to grasp the communication very well.
To make your cat comfortable with being spoken to, you can offer them treats, groom them, and engage in activities they enjoy while talking. If you haven’t trained them, it’s important to observe their body language while you communicate.
Do their ears point towards you when you speak? Do they gaze at you and occasionally blink slowly? Are they purring, lying down with their belly exposed, or behaving in a way that suggests they want your attention? These are all positive indications that your cat values your communication with them.
It is probable that cats comprehend that you involve them more in your life when you communicate with them.
But if your cat’s ears are not turned towards you or if they are more interested in something else in the room, they most likely don’t really care.
Cats don’t actually dislike being talked to; they just don’t consider the interaction as significant in the same manner.