Do cats understand English?

Cat owners have something in common … they talk to their pets! Actually, talking to the pet is not the habit of cat owners alone. People that keep other animals also have the inclination to hold a one sided conversation with the pet. As such people that are not into keeping pets would smirk every time pet owners are heard speaking with the pet. They have the notion that animals would not understand human language. Most cat owners that are asked if their pets can understand English would answer yes. Do cats really understand English? Cat experts and animals behaviorists say that cats do not really understand English but they do understand the tone and the intonation of the owner while saying the English word. Additionally, cats would understand what is being said through the actions of the owner.

Generally, cats do not adapt to training very well. This is the reason why cat owners would brag about the pet’s good behavior but not about the cat’s ability to learn tricks. Oftentimes, the cat’s intelligence became the butt of jokes. Cats are said to be sleeping when intelligence was handed to animals. Cats do not learn tricks because it is not in their nature to blindly follow orders. Cats would follow commands if they know they can gain something. Cats though have high levels of intelligence. It is highly possible for cats to understand what humans are saying. Cats would appear to understand what the English, German or Japanese owner is saying. Cat owners therefore have the notion that cats can understand any kind of language they are exposed to. A cat owned by the gardener in an international school became the pet of the students. Students of different nationalities play and speak with the cat. Cats appear to have the ability to understand not only English but other languages as well. Alas, the cat has become a multilingual pet! Cats would understand whatever language is spoken at home. Cats have the ability to pick the meaning of different languages. These are intelligent animals. The knack of the cat to understand the language depends on what kind of language the family members speak at home. In a bilingual household, the cat would respond to both languages with equal ease.

The truth of the matter though is that cats do not really understand English or any other language. Cats are intelligent animals but they do not have the capability to absorb the meaning of a word. If cats do not understand English, why then does the pet come when the owner says “It’s dinner time”? Cats learn by association. Cats communicate with humans and with other cats using body language. Scent also plays an important role in cat communication. Cats would not know what the English words “dinner, food or eat” means. However, the cat would certainly know that when the owner opens the food bin, food would not be far behind. Cats have ultra-sensitive scenting abilities. The cat would associate the smell of food to the word “eat”.

People in foreign lands would be handicapped in understanding what is being said. However, they can communicate with the locals by understanding gestures and body language. It is common for people to mime the meaning of the word. The same thing would happen to cats. These feline friends may not really understand a word but they do have the ability to understand actions, intonations and pronunciation. A cat that has filched the steak on the counter would not understand what the owner is ranting about but the angry face as well as the words that are delivered in a forceful manner will make the pet understand that it is time to run for cover.