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Thread: Do cats and dogs know their names?

  1. #1 Do cats and dogs know their names? 
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    I always wonder when I call my cat if he knows that "Earl" means him, or if he is responding to a sound that is associated with good things like food or a scratch behind the ears. I'd like to believe he really does have some sense of self and he does know that his name refers to him. I can't think of a good experiment to test something like this.

    My cat doesn't seem to have the extensive vocabulary my dog did. He seemed to know his name, other family member's names, and various words like "bunny" "blanket" "car" "roast beef" "outside"

    Have they ever done brain scans to see what parts of animals brains react to words? Would a different part of the brain react to words for objects as opposed to an animal's name?

    At what age do babies learn their own names?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Mine do because the cat is named meow meow and the dog is named woof woof.


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  4. #3  
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    I suspect that it is a bit of both. I recently aquired 2 young adult male cats. They are begining to come when I call them. But response to me calling their names is better than response when my adult son calls them. However they respond to him also.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    Yes, Working in a pet supply store, I know that there is a large percentage that are self aware and respond to their names.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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    Forum Professor astromark's Avatar
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    Looking for a awareness of self in your pets.. Self preservation, Self adulation, but this question of the name is not the measure of self you seek.
    The cat or dog responds to a sound, because it knows a reward is forthcoming. Be it food, or affection, Play or just your company.. The cat or dog does not do language..
    Looking at Cats. They learn to work with you.. You are the cats provider. The dog sees you as his leader.. and learns that being your friend is rewarding.. You can call a cat without it's name.
    Soft talking and opening the fridge will get as much recognition as what you use as a name.. I have watched a dog trainer use a bell to call his pack home every morning.. and they come to him as if he called them.. He never speaks to the dogs.. He tells me that talking will only get in the way.. of training..
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    Looking for a awareness of self in your pets.. Self preservation, Self adulation, but this question of the name is not the measure of self you seek.
    The cat or dog responds to a sound, because it knows a reward is forthcoming. Be it food, or affection, Play or just your company.. The cat or dog does not do language..
    Looking at Cats. They learn to work with you.. You are the cats provider. The dog sees you as his leader.. and learns that being your friend is rewarding.. You can call a cat without it's name.
    Soft talking and opening the fridge will get as much recognition as what you use as a name.. I have watched a dog trainer use a bell to call his pack home every morning.. and they come to him as if he called them.. He never speaks to the dogs.. He tells me that talking will only get in the way.. of training..
    I don't really understand your post. You say" the cat or dog does not do language". Nobody is saying they understand many words but, as you say, the do respond to sounds so what is the difference between a bell and calling their name?
    I have often seen a number of border collies (sheepdogs) working together and one will respond to his/her name whilst the others will ignore the command.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Professor astromark's Avatar
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    Oh contrair.. It looks to me that you did understand my point..
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    Oh contrair.. It looks to me that you did understand my point..
    I thought I did understand, and surely it should be "au contraire".
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  10. #9  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    The cat or dog responds to a sound, because it knows a reward is forthcoming. Be it food, or affection, Play or just your company.. The cat or dog does not do language..
    That is what I was wondering - whether it was just a sound associated with a reward. And for cats I might agree. But some dogs do seem to understand the names of specific objects. In this video, Neil Degrasse Tyson's dog knows the names of dozens of dogs toys and will go find them. And he even figured out by process of elimination a new name for a toy he hadnt seen before. (Well, it can't be any of the other toys, because that's not the right name, so it must be this one.) The Dog Who Knows 1,000 Words 2/9/2011 - YouTube

    You can call a cat without it's name.
    Soft talking and opening the fridge will get as much recognition as what you use as a name..
    But even with cats, as far as their own name goes, Earl seems more responsive to it than other words. If you say his name softly, he will look up at you, or the ear closest to you will turn towards you, but ignore other conversation in the room. If he's walking down the hall and passes your door and you say, "Hey Earl," he will turn around and come back in the room, but not if you just say "Hey," or "Here kitty" in the same tone of voice. But as I said, it's harder to prove that isn't an association with reward.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    It probably gets to be a hair splitting question whether associating a specific word with a specific object for a reward is different from learning or comprehending that the word means that object. Even babies are "rewarded" in a sense when they make the proper associations. That was why I was wondering whether brain imagining might shed some light on how animals process words or their own name.
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  12. #11  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    My dog is pretty good with words. I've tried a few experiments with him where I substitute incorrect words with the same tone and he doesn't respond to them. For instance, his release word is "okay", but if I substitute "no way" or "okra" or something like that, he stays in position. He seems to recognize the actual word pretty closely. Same goes for his name. When I call his sister, he doesn't respond. However, hand gestures seem to override his hesitation when I use the wrong word. So, if I call him by the wrong name, but I slap my hands on my knees, he comes to me regardless.

    Seems like he prioritizes my visual signals more than my auditory ones, which makes sense seeing as dogs don't have a sophisticated language and tend to respond to body language very well.

    EDIT: FYI, "he" is the dog in my avatar. He's very patient and pretty smart for a pit bull.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    Looking for a awareness of self in your pets.. Self preservation, Self adulation, but this question of the name is not the measure of self you seek.
    The cat or dog responds to a sound, because it knows a reward is forthcoming. Be it food, or affection, Play or just your company.. The cat or dog does not do language..
    Looking at Cats. They learn to work with you.. You are the cats provider. The dog sees you as his leader.. and learns that being your friend is rewarding.. You can call a cat without it's name.
    Soft talking and opening the fridge will get as much recognition as what you use as a name.. I have watched a dog trainer use a bell to call his pack home every morning.. and they come to him as if he called them.. He never speaks to the dogs.. He tells me that talking will only get in the way.. of training..
    Yes there are different ways of training, however both cats and dogs can and do recognize specific words and their names. most trainers will tell you that words are fully understood by dogs, and cats.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    EDIT: FYI, "he" is the dog in my avatar. He's very patient and pretty smart for a pit bull.
    And looks very cool in sunglasses.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    .... very patient and pretty smart for a pit bull.
    Pit bull terriers get such a hard rap, even from the people who love them.

    I think it dates back to the time they were used for beer baiting.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    .... very patient and pretty smart for a pit bull.
    Pit bull terriers get such a hard rap, even from the people who love them.

    I think it dates back to the time they were used for beer baiting.
    My dog is useless at that. I don't drink.

    Personally, I'd own another pit in a heartbeat. He's the sole reason I am comfortable leaving my wife at home by herself when I have to go out of town. He's fiercely loyal and they really look out for each other. Still, he isn't the brightest bulb. My goldendoodle is much more clever than he is, but he tries a LOT harder than she does.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My goldendoodle is much more clever than he is, but he tries a LOT harder than she does.
    Apparently the Golden Doooddle isn't smart enough to know when enough effort has been expended to produce the desired result.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My goldendoodle is much more clever than he is, but he tries a LOT harder than she does.
    Apparently the Golden Doooddle isn't smart enough to know when enough effort has been expended to produce the desired result.
    She does exactly what is required to get a treat and when she knows I have nothing to offer, she doesn't pay attention. She tries to outsmart me when I get in too much of a rhythm with her, too. For instance, the usual routing is sit, down, roll over when I'm showing her off to company. If I do that too much, she does the whole act at the sit command and then struts around proudly. She likes to take my pit's treats when he isn't looking and hide them for later. He just stares at the ground in front of him and cries.

    I find it fascinating when a dogl tries to change the process in order to get what they want faster. I'm always impressed by how clever dogs are and how well they seem to understand us, even if we too often think of them as "just animals".
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    ... She likes to take my pit's treats when he isn't looking and hide them for later. He just stares at the ground in front of him and cries.
    I knew a girl like that once, and I understand that sometimes all you can do is look at the ground and cry.
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  20. #19  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    ... She likes to take my pit's treats when he isn't looking and hide them for later. He just stares at the ground in front of him and cries.
    I knew a girl like that once, and I understand that sometimes all you can do is look at the ground and cry.
    Maybe that's just REALLY intelligent manipulation and I'm too stupid to realize it. I mean, it usually ends in him getting a pat on the head and another treat...
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    ... She likes to take my pit's treats when he isn't looking and hide them for later. He just stares at the ground in front of him and cries.
    I knew a girl like that once, and I understand that sometimes all you can do is look at the ground and cry.
    Maybe that's just REALLY intelligent manipulation and I'm too stupid to realize it. I mean, it usually ends in him getting a pat on the head and another treat...
    LOL, I'm stopping there.
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  22. #21  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Just so we're clear. Descending order of intelligence dolphins > pit bulls > phylum annelida > me.
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  23. #22  
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    It depends what you mean by 'know'. If you mean, do they attribute that word with their concept of self? I don't think so, they're not that self aware last I checked. If you mean that they see a relationship between that word, and outcomes or consequences over time, and are able to figure out what that word means they should do, then sure.
    I can never know I'm right, but I can know that I'm wrong.
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  24. #23  
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    We have two cats, and each one knows its own name.

    I'm sure I read an article about birds (possibly parrots) that name their children.
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