New Research Shows That Big Cats Can Distinguish Between Familiar And Unknown Human Voices, Suggesting That These Felines Aren’t As Aloof As Previously Thought

Carola G. - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual cheetah

Big cats like cheetahs and tigers might seem like fairly distant felines. However, new research claims that they can actually distinguish between known and unknown human voices– suggesting that, despite their solitary nature, these animals are quite socially aware.

Although cats are frequently viewed as somewhat aloof, past studies have shown that domestic cats can differentiate their owner’s voice from others.

A newer study conducted by researchers at Oakland University has gone even further– revealing that their wild relatives, such as cheetahs, tigers, and cougars, also possess the ability to discern various voices, particularly when they are in captivity.

The study’s co-author, Professor Jennifer Vonk, suggested that these results might indicate the necessity for these animals in the wild to recognize their own offspring and be aware of others in their vicinity. She also mentioned that this ability may aid them in responding to warning calls from different species.

“We shouldn’t assume that sociality is only about group living and that only group living is important for cognition,” Vonk pointed out.

In their study, which has since been published in PeerJ, the research team described their analysis of various exotic cat species, including lions, snow leopards, clouded leopards, and servals. These cats were studied in captive environments like sanctuaries, zoos, and nature reserves.

Following a preliminary pilot study with seven cats representing five species, the researchers conducted a more extensive study involving 24 cats, which hailed from 10 different species. Of these, 16 were hand-raised by humans, while the remaining eight were reared by their biological mothers.

Every cat was presented with audio clips of three unknown individuals saying the phrase, “Good morning, how are you today?” Afterward, the same phrase was spoken by a familiar voice, like a caretaker. A fifth recording was then played, featuring another unknown voice repeating the question.

Thereafter, the researchers repeated this process using recordings from the same individuals. However, the exotic cats’ names were also incorporated into the phrase.

Carola G. – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual cheetah

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