Do Cats Understand Words?

Do Cats Understand Words

Cats are among the most beloved pets in the world. Over 100 million cats are living in homes as pets in the United States alone, and that number is growing every year. If you have a cat, you probably think you know them pretty well. They’re quirky, aloof when they want to be, and affectionate when they feel like it. But do you know your cat? Are there depths to their personality that you haven’t realized yet? It turns out that researchers are still working to answer these questions about cat intelligence, but there is some evidence for what many owners have long believed about their feline friends. Cats understand words on a basic level and can pick up on key phrases—but only if they’re used frequently around your kitty. Keep reading to learn more about the fascinating world of feline communication!

Do Cats Understand Words

Yes, cats are very intelligent animals and can understand words. There is no doubt about it. Cats understand the tone and inflection of our voices in ways that most animals do not. If you are speaking from a place of anger or frustration, a cat will know. They will often look away from you or act skittish. They can sense those emotions from us and respond to them accordingly.

What Does The Research Say About Cats And Language?

1. Cats Respond To The Tone Of Human Voices

Cats can pick up on the tone of your voice and use it to understand how they should respond. If you talk in a high pitch, they know you’re happy and playful. If you talk in a low tone, they know something is wrong or that it’s time for business.

2. Cats Can Learn Words And Phrases

A study by scientists at the University of Tokyo showed that cats can recognize certain words or phrases if they are used frequently around them. One cat learned the phrase “come here” from its owner after hearing her say it regularly, and would come running when she called. Another cat learned how to open a door simply by hearing its owner repeatedly saying the word “door” while trying to teach him how. This is similar to what many dog owners have seen their pets do—the difference is that dogs are more likely than cats to be able to learn new words once they have been introduced into their vocabulary, whereas cats usually only learn one or two key phrases throughout their lives.3

3. Cats Can Understand Commands

Cats may not be able to learn new words like dogs can, but they do understand commands once introduced into their vocabulary—usually just one or two key phrases depending on how often they hear them. For example, your cat might know what “no!” means when you tell her not to scratch your furniture, but she probably won’t know what “sit” means until you begin to use it with her frequently.

4. Cats Respond To The Tone Of Your Voice

Cats can pick up on the tone of your voice and use it to understand how they should respond. If you talk in a high pitch, they know you’re happy and playful. If you talk in a low tone, they know something is wrong or that it’s time for business.

5. Cats Have Better Depth Perception Than Dogs

One study found that cats have better depth perception than dogs—and that this ability is also present in humans! Another study showed that cats can see farther into their surroundings when looking down because of a different positioning of the eyes than what we see in dogs—cats have an extra front eye, which gives them a better view of the ground below them when they look down at their feet. The research showed that cats can see about 1/3 further into their surroundings when looking down than when looking straight ahead!

How To Communicate With Your Cat

1. Cats Prefer To Be Left Alone

Cats are solitary animals. They do not like to be petted, held, or touched by strangers. You might want to leave your cat alone for a while when you first bring her home so she can get used to you and learn how she should act around you. A cat will often associate being petted with something unpleasant, such as being hurt or trapped in a cat carrier. Don’t touch your cat unless she is accepting of it—she might respond by biting or scratching you if she feels uncomfortable.

2. Cats Prefer To Be Handled In Private

Cats do not like to be handled by strangers, especially children! Some cats may even lash out at them if they are brought into the house, so children should stay away from your cat unless they have been introduced properly first. When introducing a new child into the household, it’s best if the child is not allowed near the cats until they have been taught some basic rules about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior around them: no playing with them, no touching their food or toys (even if they’re yours), and no rough play (fighting) with them. If your child wants to hold your cat when he/she comes over, let him/her know that you don’t want him/her doing this until he/she has been introduced properly—and that this is something that only occurs in private.

3. Cats Have Different Personalities

Some cats are more outgoing than others, and some are shyer. If you’re bringing a new cat home it’s best to let the cat get used to you slowly by letting the cat know that you’re there and that he/she will be safe with you. You might want to slowly try petting the cat when he/she comes into the room, or sit on the floor and let him/her come over so they can smell you and get used to your scent before petting him/her. If your cat is very shy, it might take several days or even weeks of being in the same room together before he/she will even let you touch him/her. Don’t force anything—if your cat wants to be left alone for a while, don’t worry about forcing him/her into doing something he doesn’t want to do!

4. Cats Don’t Like Loud Noises

Cats can hear sounds much better than humans can—and they may react badly if they hear loud sounds such as people talking loudly or walking upstairs at night. The sound of loud footsteps on stairs will often frighten them! The sound of people talking loudly when they first come home may also frighten them—try turning off all electronic devices that make noise (TVs, stereos) when your cats first come home so they aren’t startled by unexpected noises. Also, if you have a cat that will not let you touch him/her, it’s best to let the cat get used to you gradually by petting him/her in the room where he/she will be living so that he/she gets used to your scent.

5. Cats Are Very Picky About Their Food

Cats are very picky about what they eat, and they can be very finicky about their food too! If your cat is used to eating only dry food, it might take some time before he/she will eat anything else. If your cat won’t eat his/her wet food, try mixing it with dry food and see if that helps—or maybe use canned food instead of wet (but still try mixing it with dry first).

Bottom Line

Cats may not be able to speak to us in human language, but they can understand basic sounds and gestures. They rely on body language, noises, and scents to communicate with one another and with humans. By mimicking their sounds and using positive reinforcement, you can help your cat better understand what you’re trying to communicate with them. Cats are amazing animals, and when we take the time to learn their language, we can have better relationships with them.

Barbara Botts
Barbara Botts is a news writer. She has a passion for writing and loves to share stories that matter with the world. Barbara is an advocate for social justice and believes in using her voice to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.