Here’s an unsettling fact. Your cat may not care about you, but it absolutely knows where you are. Great.



Here’s an unsettling fact. On some level, your cat is mentally mapping your spatial position based on audio clues in the environment, including the sound of your voice especially when they cannot see you, per a new study.

However, we’re not entirely sure just how well they can do it. In order to find out, a group of researchers found a room of cats and a Bluetooth speaker. Per Plus One, “researchers from Kyoto University would set up an individual cat in a room that the animal was familiar with. In this room, they placed a wireless Bluetooth speaker, while a different speaker was placed outside the room. The most telling was a recording of the cat owner’s voice from one of the speakers before the same recording played from the other speaker just a few seconds later.”

“Results showed that cats were surprised when their owner appeared to be ‘teleported’ to a new, unexpected location,” the researchers write in their paper, noting that the animals did not react in the same way when familiar cat vocaliaations or electronic sounds were played through the speakers.

“These results suggest that cats hold a mental representation of the unseen owner and map their owner’s location from the owner’s voice, showing evidence of socio-spatial cognition.”

According to the researchers, it’s not clear from the tests as to whether the cats were surprised by the owner’s presence in an unexpected location, or rather by their apparent absence in the expected location.

Future ‘impossible teleportation’ experiments might be able to help clear that up.

“Our finding that cats mentally map their owner’s location from their voice corresponds at least to visible displacement in object permanence. Further studies on invisible displacement could benefit from using auditory stimuli, as indeed could similar research on other species,” the researchers write.

“Mentally representing the outside world and manipulating those representations flexibly is an important feature in complex thinking and a fundamental aspect of cognition.”

For now, all we know is that they’re definitely tracking us. Yay?




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