Do cats understand words?

Do cats have the ability to understand the words humans say? Some cat owners would answer yes. Definitely, cats would recognize their names but that is just about the extent of the cat’s understanding of human word. Studies show that cats do not really understand words. These animals do not have the ability to absorb languages but they do have the capability to understand the tone of voice when the word was said. Cats would also have an idea what the word means by observing the attitude of the speaker.

Contrary to the common belief, cats really are intelligent animals. Cat intelligence though is not at par with human intelligence. Cats may recognize their names but understanding words is way too complicated for these animals. As such, they are not expected to understand words the way humans do.

A lot of cat owners would disagree. Many cat owners believe that the pet can understand what they are saying. At the owner’s “kitty, kitty” call, the cat would come bounding into the room at once especially if it is dinner time. One cat owner would tell how the pet would directly enter the bedroom when the word “sleep” is said. Generally, cats do not like being bathed. One cat owner though has managed to accustom the pet to the feel of water on its body. Every time the owner says “bath time” the cat would jump to the sink on its own. Other cat owners have their own stories to tell how the pet understands words they say.

Scientists and animal behaviorists think otherwise. They believe that cats cannot understand words. To communicate, cats use scents and various vocalizations. Body language though is most commonly used. Through the movement of the ears, tail and body, cats can make themselves understood. This mode of communication is also used by cats to understand humans. Cats do not really understand the meaning of the word spoken by humans but the intonation and the action of the talking person will give the cat a clue to what is being said. A simple test was conducted to verify the veracity of this theory. One cat owner had reprimanded the pet for soiling the carpet. The cat owner though was smiling and the scolding was done in a mild voice. The cat did not even budge from its position on the couch. The test was repeated. With a stern face and flailing arms, the owner shouted the lyrics of a song. Do you know what the cat did? It jumps from the couch and run straight to the open door. Obviously, the cat has not understood the words but has understood that the person is angry.

This is one concrete example that cats do not really understand human words. Cats rely heavily on the intonation of the speaker as well as on the speaker’s body language. For cats, the human’s gestures, the posture, eye contact as well as the tone of voice are very important factors that allow them to understand humans. Some pet parents though still insist that it is possible to make the cat understand common words. Cats are intelligent animals and thousands of year’s domestication has made it possible for cats to adapt to human ways. If cats can be taught to flush toilets and to open doors, it is certainly possible to make them learn simple words. Dogs learn through association and repetition. These training methods can work as well in cats. Persistent training can eventually make the cat understand the meaning of simple words and phrases.

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