Exotic Cats Special Ability: Big Cats Can Remember, Recognize Human Voices

Cats are some of the most complex animals in the world, known for either being pets and wildlife predators. Both domesticated and big cats belong to the family Felidae; with the former often seen inside our homes and the latter in the wild. Due to human activities such as excessive hunting and wildlife trafficking, multiple exotic cats have taken refuge in animal sanctuaries where they are taken care of by humans.

Wild cats, ranging from lions to cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, and leopards, are known for their reflexes and mobility. But they have other qualities aside from their mobility and physical prowess.

Based on a pilot study, researchers confirm that cats (in general) are capable of remembering and differentiating human voices. It has long been thought that domestication or early experience allows felines to recognize familiar and unfamiliar humans.

The ability of human voice recognition among Felidae members is easier to monitor when it comes to domestic cats, which are some of the most common pets in the world. With this, authors of the new research paper focused on non-domesticated cats by comparing them with household their household feline counterparts, which are mostly intimate with humans.

The study found that ‘human contact’ rather than domestication is the secret behind the ability.

Captive Cats Recognize Human Voices

Exotic Cats Special Ability: Big Cats Can Remember, Recognize Human Voices [Study]
(Photo : Photo by Jeff Lemond on Unsplash)

The evidence that captive cats recognize human voices with more consistency and accuracy was published in the journal PeerJ Life & Environment on February 15. Despite their known aggression, undomesticated cats can also show affection and even connection with their caretakers, whose familiar voices make the big cats respond more quickly and intensely. These dynamics is also similar between pet cats and their owners.

The new evidence showed in the research paper also confirms the idea that domestication alone is not the sole reason for a cat, even the wild ones, to remember and recognize humans that are familiar to them.

According to the study, cougars, cheetahs, and tigers could distinguish people apart and were not afraid to choose their favorite among them. However, recognizing a human still does not guarantee that exotic cats would not attack their caregivers.

Also Read: Jaguar vs. Leopard: Which is the Better Hunter?

Human Contact and Domestication

During a press release on February 15, one of the study’s authors Jennifer Vonk, a psychologist at Oakland University in Michigan, stated vocal recognition in wild cats is based on the fact that “non-group-living animals” also possess social cognitive abilities. Vonk also called that people should not neglect social cognition research in “less highly social species.” For cats, the ability of voice recognition is applicable for domesticated, undomesticated, tamed, or wild.

Vonk and the research team behind the February 2024 study arrived at their conclusion by selecting 24 cats of 10 species and expose them to audio playbacks of familiar and unfamiliar humans. This research method confirms that human contact instead of domestication allows cats to recognize us more, especially if we take care or make contact with them in close proximity.

Related Article: Dogs Can Detect Our Fears, Studies Reveal

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