Do Cats Recognize Faces?

Do Cats Recognize Faces

If you walk past your home’s window, can your cat single you out in a crowd? Will your cat recognize you after weeks, months, or even years of being away from him?

Do cats recognize faces?

It is not clear to what extent cats can recognize faces. In an experiment conducted in 2005 by researchers from the Pennsylvania State University and University of Texas, scientists trained dogs and cats to recognize patterns. The animal participants in the experiment were then shown images of their owners as well as strangers.

The result? Cats were able to identify their owners for roughly half the time. On the other hand, the cats that participated in the experiment were able to identify another cat’s face for roughly 90 percent of the time.

Do cats recognize their humans?

That is not to say that your cat does not recognize you. Even if your pet cannot recognize you based on your appearance, he has other ways to identify you from other people.

Cats recognize your scent, voice, and even your habits, allowing them to distinguish you from other people.

1. Your cat can recognize your voice

Your cat may seem indifferent at times and seems to avoid coming to you even after you call out his name. This does not mean that he does not know your voice or even hears. More often than not, your cat hears you, he just chooses to ignore your call.

In a study conducted by Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist from the Sophia University of Tokyo, it was discovered that cats have the ability to recognize their names. When the feline participants of the study were called by their names, their bodies moved differently compared to the time when words that sound like their names were uttered.

The participating cats also responded to their names when strangers called out their names although the responses were not as strong compared to the owners calling on their pets.

According to Saito and her team, cats probably responded when their names were called because they associated their owners’ voice with either a treat or a punishment. The result of the study does not necessarily mean that they recognize their names the same way that people do.

2. Your cat is an astute observer of your habits

Whether you live alone with your cat or with a spouse or even with a family, your pet can recognize you.

Cats carefully observe the habits of their human companions. In fact, they even know who usually feeds them, gives them treats, or offers the most satisfying pets and scratches.

They know these by observing your behavior. Plus, it also helps that felines are good at getting what they want. Felines know which vocalizations and behaviors get rewarded by their human companions.

3. Your cat recognizes your smell

Although dogs have always been touted for their keen sense of smell, cats are not that much far behind when it comes to recognizing scents.

It is widely believed that cats can and do recognize the smell of their humans. 

Unlike dogs, cats rely on their sense of smell more for a variety of functions. As such, it should not come as a surprise if your cat knows exactly how you smell. He may even find comfort in recognizing your scent.

Why your cat is not as good as dogs in recognizing faces

Although dogs rely in part on their sense of smell in recognizing their human companions, they can also recognize faces and different facial expressions.

Why can dogs do this while your cat cannot?

Evolution and domestication can provide a clue. Dogs have been around humans far longer than cats. Even before cats were domesticated, dogs have been kept by people as pets and hunting companions.

To a large degree, this ability stems from people choosing certain traits in dogs. This translates to genetic and behavioral changes in the species that humans find appealing.

Cats, on the other hand, were only domesticated after people learned how to plant. With the advent of agriculture, rodents began to intrude on human settlements. And because rodents were the primary prey of cats, felines came to hang around these settlements more.

It is no exaggeration to say that essentially, cats domesticated themselves. And although cats can read human facial expressions up to a certain degree, that ability is not vital for their survival.

How cats see their human companions

Does your cat know you are a person or does he see you as another animal?

Dogs treat people differently compared to other canines. This is evident in the way they communicate and play with people. Cats, on the other hand, communicate with their humans the same way they do with other felines. For example, a cat will rub his body against you just like the way he does with other felines in your home.

This indicates that to your cat, you are another cat, albeit bigger and clumsier. This is also one of the reasons why he always brings you dead and half-dead rodents, thinking that he needs to teach you how to hunt.

It is worthwhile to mention that your cat does not necessarily think that you are inferior to him, contrary to how the Internet portrays felines. Typical feline behaviors like purring and rubbing are usually reserved for other cats that are of the same social rank.

It is also possible that your cat sees you as a member of his family. When your cat kneads you, he is reminded of the time he spent with his mother and littermates.