Caturday felid trifecta: Cats remember each other’s names; a cat-themed short story; Japanese cat circus; and lagniappe

May 21, 2022 • 8:30 am

Here’s a short article from Science Alerts (click on screenshot):

It’s a summary of a longer scientific paper from Nature Scientific Reports (free by clicking below):

It’s not a very convincing experiment. I looked at the paper, and this is the summary:

We examined whether cats matched familiar cats’ names and faces (Exp.1) and human family members’ names and faces (Exp.2). Cats were presented with a photo of the familiar cat’s face on a laptop monitor after hearing the same cat’s name or another cat’s name called by the subject cat’s owner (Exp.1) or an experimenter (Exp.2). Half of the trials were in a congruent condition where the name and face matched, and half were in an incongruent (mismatch) condition. Results of Exp.1 showed that household cats paid attention to the monitor for longer in the incongruent condition, suggesting an expectancy violation effect; however, café cats did not. In Exp.2, cats living in larger human families were found to look at the monitor for increasingly longer durations in the incongruent condition. Furthermore, this tendency was stronger among cats that had lived with their human family for a longer time, although we could not rule out an effect of age. This study provides evidence that cats link a companion’s name and corresponding face without explicit training.

And a diagram, which isn’t really needed but has a picture of two cats (caption from the paper:

Diagram illustrating each condition in Exp.1. Two model cats were chosen from cats living with subject. The model cat’s name called by owner was played through the speaker built into the laptop computer (Name phase). Immediately after playback, a cat’s face appeared on the monitor (Face phase). On half of the trials the name and face matched (congruent condition), on the other half they mismatched (incongruent condition).

 

So house cats looked longer at a computer screen when shown a cat (known to the observer cat) when the owner’s voice called out a wrong name. Observation time was shorter when the cat matched the name. But this wasn’t true for café cats.

First, how do we know that “longer looking at a computer screen” is the same as “knowing an incongruence between name and face”? I could easily make the reverse hypothesis. Second, the results are barely significant:

Second, while the difference between house and cafe cats is significant at an appreciable level, within each group there’s not much difference in “looking time”. Here’s the figure with the “attending time”. Note that it’s longer for house cats when the picture doesn’t match the name (blue box is higher), but it’s barely a significant difference (p = 0.045, when less than 0.05 denotes “significance”), while for cafe cats there is no significant difference (p = 0.11). There is, as I said, a significant result X venue interaction (p = 0.009). That may mean that cafe cats have less chance to associate a face with a name.  Still, we’d like a bigger sample size and some indication that longer looking time really means that the cats are confused!

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Here’s “The Cat” a lovely short (yes, really short) story published on Electric Lit. It’s by the noted Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen and deals with the effect of a cat on a broken marriage.

Click to read story and introduction:

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A cat circus! The Google translation from the Japanese:

A show by cats that are hard to see The Cats I went to Nasu Animal Kingdom! It was Taken on February 4, 2017.

It isn’t bad given that these are cats.  The tightrope walk is my favorite.

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I don’t know anything about this giant cat sculpture, but it came from reader Rick, who noted, “Portugal must love cats too.” Maybe an enterprising reader can find out what this is:

h/t: Ginger K.

9 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Cats remember each other’s names; a cat-themed short story; Japanese cat circus; and lagniappe

    1. A wonderfully beautiful statue, but where is the tail? Is it a Manx cat? It somehow doesn’t look like a Manx.
      I think the ‘research’ on cats recognising other cats’ names is wobbly. What does looking for longer at a screen even means? Note, I do not say the conclusion of the research is wrong, just that the method is weak. I would not have recommended publication without caveats in my previous life as an (unpaid) referee of papers. (But then, the subject is not really in my field of expertise, so I would never have to referee it anyway, nevertheless, ‘methods’ are not limited to one specific field).

  1. > how do we know that “longer looking at a computer screen” is the same as “knowing an incongruence between name and face”?

    This is based on the “violation of expectation” method, which is often used in studying infant cognition. Infants seem to stare longer at abnormal events, and the assumption is that they do so because such events violate their expectations.

  2. Hello Jerry, this is not a cat but the iberian linx. The artist uses plastic garbage as materia prima.

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