If you're a cat or a dog owner, you may often wonder 'what does your pet really think of you'? This question might have left you pondering for a while. Just like you can recognise your dog when you watch them bounding across the park, or your cat atop of the scratching post, you can easily differentiate by the colour of their coat, the way they move, or by their shape. But the real question is, do cats or dogs recognise you the same way you do?
Do they look at you and categorise you by shape, colour or maybe by the way you walk or talk? The truth is, they do!
Our pets can recognise us just like we do, they learn our scents, sounds, subtle cues of movements and touch.
Before digging deeper into how our dogs or our cats recognise us and tell us apart from different humans, it's important to learn about how they perceive our scents and tell us apart.
A pup's perception: Scent
A well-trained dog can follow your scent up to miles and can easily tell you apart. Be it you, your family members or even a stranger, a dog will never fail at following your scent. Not only can they follow a stranger's scent, but they can even tell apart the difference between two identical twins. Here's how:
A study where ten trained police dogs (German Shepherd) of three Czech Republic Police Regional Headquarters were a part of the scent identification study. The study required them to match scents of two monozygotic pairs ('identical') and two dizygotic pairs ('fraternal'). These scents were collected and stored in glass jars. Once the experience took place, in each trial, one scent was used at the starting and later the dog was sent to determine if any of the glass jars had a matching scent. As a distraction, the scents of children of similar ages were used. The dogs were able to match the scents correctly to the scent of one twin with the other as well as scents collected from every identical and non-identical twin. All the German Shepherds' were able to tell apart the scents of identical as well as non-identical twins. In conclusion, it was found out that all the dogs were able to distinguish the scents of identical and non-identical twins despite the fact that they ate the same food, lived in the same environment and even if the scents weren't presented to them simultaneously.
As we now know, that dogs are experts at recognising scents and it's not surprising for them to even remember your scent when you're not around. Another study related to the behavioural processes was conducted for these dogs.
A group of dogs was trained to sit in an MRI machine and their brain activity was recorded as they were expected to react to scents of people and other dogs who were not present. These included a dog who lived with them, a stranger dog, a strange person, and a person who lived with them. This experiment excluded the owners because they had to act as handlers while the dogs were in the MRI machine.
The study had proven that these dogs who were present in the MRI machine had exhibited brain activity much greater than any other scent. Dogs tend to get excited when they get a whiff of their favourite humans and therefore they recognise and remember 'their' human's scents more than anything else.
Recognizing Faces by Sight
Being dog owners, we believe that a dog only depends on their noses to recognize things in their world, including people. But the matter of fact is that they're extremely good at using their eyes as well. Dogs have evolved to understand human behaviour and their expressions as a result of their ancestors. Dogs have always been expected to make people happy, especially their owners and to excel at this, it was extremely important for these canines to develop a natural flair for reading expressions and understanding human body language.
To understand this criterion better, a study conducted by Paolo Monglillo at the University of Padua in Italy back in 2010 found out that dogs can easily pick out their owners in a crowd by recognising their faces. When their owners and random strangers were asked to walk back and forth in a room, the dogs seemed to be much more enlightened and paid more attention to their owners. However, when their owners wore masks over their faces, the dogs had difficulty telling them apart from other strangers, and the dogs paid an equal amount of attention to both the people.
We've learnt well about dogs and their ability to recognise scents and faces, and we can surely say that dogs really do know us. Not only do they recognise us physically, but they understand our behaviour, movements, and as surprising as it sounds, even our emotions. Since the result of their ancestors, dogs have really learned how to make their humans happy in each and every way possible. So, this answers our question. Dogs really do think well of their owners, and they're just as fond of you as you are, or maybe even more.
Does your cat know you?
If you have ever wondered whether or not your cat really knows you, the answer is yes. Perhaps they even know you better than you think you know yourself. An interesting yet absurd cat behaviour shows that your cat learns and develops your habits. Just like how humans reach out to different people when they are in need, so do cats. Cats very well know that who is the person responsible for feeding them, who has a bag full of goodies and treats just for them and who really knows where our little kitten needs to be scratched. Not only that, but cats are also well-skilled at figuring out sounds and actions which will make their human respond.
We've learned about dogs and how they can tell us apart, however, this is not the case with cats. They can't really tell us apart and recognise our faces. Human faces may seem to be similar to cats according to a 2005 study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Texas at Dallas.
When the cats were shown pictures of human faces, they could only tell apart about 54 percent of the time. They were comparatively much better at recognising other cat's faces which they did about 91 percent of the time successfully.
In conclusion, your cat may not able to tell you apart as precisely as dogs do, they still know you and can figure out your sounds and actions to elicit a response.
Can your cat really acknowledge your voice?
We know that human faces are just not as important to cats and unlike dogs, cats have always been on their own terms in human society. Rodents used to come to human villages to eat the grains and cats only came to these villages to hunt the rodents. Therefore, cats never needed to comprehend human gestures and expressions in a way dogs needed to and as a result, their understanding of human faces is not as precise as that of dogs.
This doesn't necessarily mean that cats do not understand us at all, they do, but in a lot of different ways as compared to dogs.
This includes recognising humans by their scents, sounds and their touch.
A study conducted in 2013 by the scientists at the University of Tokyo had found out that cats could easily tell the recordings of their owners' voices apart from other strangers. They mostly ignored the recordings of strangers' voices and only reacted and twitched their ears to listen to their owners' voices.
Bond between a Cat & Human
Cats only started living around humans about nine thousand years ago whereas, it is said that dogs are a man's best friend, it is only true because dogs and humans have lived together much longer than cats. However, it doesn't lessen the bond between a cat and its owners.
A paper published in the journal Animal Cognition by Michigan researchers studying cat psychology looked at 12 cats and how they respond to their owners. These 12 cats were invited to spend quality time with their owners and these cats exhibited positive behaviours such as sitting on their owner's laps, purring, and even rubbing against them, while their owners were smiling. Similarly, these cats were also invited to spend time with strangers and their behaviour didn't change whether the strangers were smiling or frowning. In conclusion, cats can recognise the moods of their owners and recognise their facial expressions over time, by spending as much time with the same person as possible.
How do cats show affection to you?
Cats are subtle animals which don’t mean that they fail at showing love or affection to their owners. There are different ways by which a cat shows affection towards you and here are a few ways:
Purring- The most common sound made by the cat known as ‘purring’. A cat usually purrs when they’re relaxed or enjoying something. A cat feels the most loved when you stroke them, especially in areas such as behind the ear or under their chin and are more likely to purr.
Grooming their owners- A cat’s way of showing affection to you is by mingling their scent with yours. This helps them feel relaxed and builds mutual trust.
Slow blinking- Slow blinking is usually an indicator which means that your cat trusts you and enjoys your company.
Showing their belly- One of the warmest gestures a cat can give to its owner, meaning that the cat feels safe and comfortable around you. They’re happy to be around you and it's their way of saying ‘ I trust you’.
Cheek rub- Cheek rub is usually an invitation by a cat to socialise as cats have scent glands on their cheeks that help them produce pheromones.
Head bunting- Head bunting is your cat’s way of marking territory, meaning that you belong to her. The scent located on your cat’s head is automatically transferred to you.
Your cat knows you just as well as a dog does. The only difference is their way of perceiving human behaviour and emotions. While dogs recognise their humans by faces and scents, cats recognise their humans by sounds, scents and touch. The next time your cat greets you after you come home after a tiring day or your dog reaches out to you when you call on them at the park, be assured that they really do know you well. Look at your dog or your cat, really look at them, and you’ll be surprised at how differently they view the world. They feel all the emotions just as we do, and try their best to understand our behaviour, moods and even our sounds and actions. The joy of being recognised by a cat or a dog is absolutely the greatest feeling in the world. With almost no effort at all, they bring the utmost joy into our lives and be there for us no matter what.