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Do cats understand human speech? How many words do cats understand?

Every cat owner communicates with their pet at least once a day in the hope that the cat will hear their words and requests. But is there any point in talking to furry friends? Science claims that cats can indeed recognize human speech, but there are some nuances.

How many words do cats understand?

Scientists say that cats are capable of understanding from 20 to 40 words depending on the breed and individual qualities. However, this happens through the formation of an associative series, where they associate words and sounds with objects and specific processes.

For example, when you go to the kitchen and call your pet “to eat,” it will come not because it understands the word you said but because it associates it with food. However, cats lack cognitive abilities for a deeper understanding of human speech.

Despite this, it is definitely worth talking to cats. Firstly, it will be emotionally easier for you, as you can express yourself and satisfy your communication needs. Secondly, cats are also social creatures that need interaction with their owner. Moreover, it strengthens the bond between the pet and the owner!

What about human emotions?

This is where cats excel because they use non-verbal communication during interactions. Based on facial expressions, tone of voice, and emotional behavior, cats can determine whether their owner is happy, angry, or scared.

Can cats respond to their name?

In some cat ads, owners often mention the distinctive trait of their pet: “responds to the name Murzik.” Is it true that if a stranger calls a cat by its name, it will respond?

A 2019 study showed that cats can indeed learn their name and recognize it in human speech, but they are unlikely to respond to it. Cats are simply designed this way—aloof and not always interested in making acquaintances with strangers.

How a cat responds to a stranger depends on its personality. Some cats will hide in the farthest corner of the room and stay there until the “danger” passes, while others may show various levels of curiosity when meeting a new person.

Do cats understand human meowing?

Definitely not. Just as we don’t understand what cats are meowing about, they don’t understand human meowing either. So don’t even try to communicate with them in their own way, as it won’t lead to anything.

Brian O'Neil

Brian O'Neil is the founder and chief editor. He was a journalist in the original LS TV before it closed in 2017.

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