Service of Cats

April 11th, 2019

Categories: Animals, Cats

Caramelli Cat

I’m no cat expert. Only two have lived with me–I was a dog only person for years–and while adored and spoiled, my felines hardly amounted to a significant case study. However, I’ve lived next door to, observed and cat sat for indoor/outdoor cats and have had countess cat nieces, nephews, step children and friends.

Which is why I am chiming in on the findings Brianna Abbott reported in her Wall Street Journal article, “There Is Now Scientific Proof Your Cat Is Ignoring You –New study finds felines can distinguish their names, even if they don’t come when called; twitching ears.


Abbott wrote: “At the risk of dashing the hopes of owners who put their hearts into coming up with the perfect name, it is unlikely cats associate the call with a sense of self, researchers say. More likely, cats associate that specific sound with some sort of reward, like food or petting or playing, and come to learn that the reward will follow the sound. That is how most species, like dogs, learn how to assign meaning to specific sounds.”

The researches in the “Scientific Reports” journal study Abbott highlighted hadn’t met Cibier the cat, who lives in Millbrook, N.Y. When he was my neighbor and out and about on our 10 acres, only once when called did he not come bounding over to his housemate, Gerald. That was when he was sick and hiding in the woods. Cats often hide when they don’t feel well. Otherwise no matter what rodent he was stalking or scent he was following, he’d race back home when summoned.


“Past research has shown dogs can recognize humans’ emotional states, and the pitch of a human voice can affect dog behavior and how they follow commands. Highly trained dogs can even distinguish between over 1,000 different words or symbols, according to one 2011 study.”

I maintain that cats can as well. A friend rescued a mature cat when its human had died and nobody in the family could take it home due to allergies. My friend was warned that the cat didn’t cuddle and never sat on laps but otherwise was good company. Not long after the cat joined her household she broke a limb and was forced to stay home with leg propped up on pillows for weeks. One day, early in her convalescence, who jumped on the bed and into her lap? This cat.

“ ‘Cats are just as good at learning,’” says John Bradshaw, an anthrozoologist at the University of Bristol, who wasn’t involved in the study. ‘They’re just not as keen to show their owners what they’ve learned.’”

Georgie, a friend’s cat, shook paws with his humans every time they asked him to–in front of me at least.

Abbott also wrote: “There is also research showing that when given the choice between food, toys and human interaction, the majority of cats actually choose human interaction.” They hadn’t studied my Caramelli Cat. Cara was hungry 24/7 and if you put the right food in her bowl, the best toy or softest lap would come in second or third every time.

How did this dog enthusiast become a cat fan? We bought a house that came with a cat who purred and hugged her way into our hearts and the rest is history. This once feral cat turned out to be the Perle Mesta of felines. Mesta, 1889-1975, a socialite and ambassador, was known as a great hostess. I had a houseful of friends one weekend when my husband was abroad. After dinner one night Cat–his name–made it his business to sit on the lap of each friend. I am convinced that as a host, he wanted them to feel at home.

Have you known a cat that displayed atypical cat behavior? Do cats get bad publicity for the most part? Are you a dog person who couldn’t contemplate loving a cat or vice versa?


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12 Responses to “Service of Cats”

  1. Judy Schuster Said:

    My cats have always come when called and have cuddled. At the moment, I have one cat left (I had three at one time.), and I plan to replace her when she goes to cat heaven. She frequently gets on a chair next to my computer to be petted, and she also gets on my bed for the same reason. Cats are ideal companions for elderly people since they don’t need to be walked and use a litter box. I agree they do and can show love to their owners. My cat also tells time, demanding her food at three specific times of the day. Right now, she is next to me loudly purring as I pet her. I don’t agree with the Wall Street Journal article. I think cats have gotten a bad rap!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Cats are also perfect for people who leave for work early and return from work late.

    I think most of the negative press cats get is from people who haven’t lived with a cheerful or intelligent feline or perhaps know nothing about them. I was wary when I first encountered Cat. He was strolling on a fence. The previous owner assured me that Cat was gentle but he also told me that he swam in the pond which was hooey–it was filled with snakes and goodness knows what else and throughout a very hot summer–he rented the guest house–never once did he put one toe in that water. I touched Cat very gently and he leaned in to be petted. It was curiosity on my part at first sight. That turned to “where is he? we didn’t see him all weekend,” and eventually, he became a beloved indoor outdoor cat.

  3. Bob Gula Said:

    I happen to love cats. Whenever I announce this to certain people I often get a response that startles me. How about, I am a dog person and I really hate cats. How some people can just blurt this out without thinking about hurting my feelings is beyond me! I never say I am a cat person but I hate dogs. Frankly, I like most animals much more than most people I have met in this life. Animals never say the wrong thing!
    I am blessed to have known Snowflake, Spooky, Josette, Angelique and Rosie wherever you are. Please return soon!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You make a good point. When I had dogs never once did someone walk up to me and say, “I hate dogs I only like cats” yet people are comfortable insulting cats and their owners. Hmmmm. I am grateful to Spooky as he introduced us to you and John.

    I chose Josette’s photo to illustrate this post because she honored us with her presence that night when she is usually timid and doesn’t set nose or paw in the room when guests are there. I, too, hope that Rosie will visit again once warm weather sets in. You are great cat parents–they have the best life with you and she’d be a lovely addition to the family.

  5. BC Said:

    Severely allergic to cats; otherwise, I like them! I look, but do not touch .

  6. Hank Goldman Said:

    Cats allow people to live in their CAT environments.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    BC–There was a time my husband thought he might be allergic to one of our cats. He wasn’t. Such a shame not to be able to pat a cat or let it zonk out on your lap when you watch TV.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:



  9. ASK Said:

    I will not take sides in cat v. dog issue, but the almost identical article ran in the London Times 2 days ago. Assuming a press release was sent out to major newspapers, or someone sharp-eyed US reporter saw it and followed up. Or maybe posted to a social media site?

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s such a relief to write about a cheery subject these days. I think I saw coverage of the study on Facebook and no doubt it made the rounds on Twitter, Instagram et al. Not surprised others grabbed on to it.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    There are as many cat theories as there are cats, if not more, so why bother with analyses? In all probability all apply in one way or another. Cats are independent creatures with the strong possibility of feelings based solely upon themselves. “Cats are mysterious folk,” according to Sir Walter Scott. So let’s respect their privacy and enjoy them for who they are!

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Same with dogs I suspect. I knew a woman who had dogs her entire life whose dog attacked her consistently and eventually had to be removed from her home. She was in her 80s, could not control the animal–nobody in her family could. It was a stunning English setter with a mean streak.

    As for kitties, here’s to Sir Walter Scott!

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