Do Cats Understand Their Own Name?

iStock.com/Andrew_Deer
iStock.com/Andrew_Deer

Pet owners often wonder about their animal’s cognitive abilities. Sometimes, dogs and cats seem to display an incredible awareness and sensitivity for their surroundings. Other times, they’ll poop on the carpet while completely ignoring your profanities.

How much they really understand may forever remain a mystery. But according to research out of Japan, cats are demonstrably aware of at least one thing: their unique cat names.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at Sophia University in Tokyo corralled cats in four separate experiments taking place in their normal household environments or in cat cafes. In the first experiment, cats were subjected to voice recordings of their owners reciting a list of four nouns that sounded superficially like their names before they spoke the cat’s name. In the second, they heard their names as well as the names of four or more cats living in the same environment. A third experiment used a mix of general nouns and cohabiting cats. In the fourth experiment, a stranger uttered their names to see if the cats would still respond in the absence of a familiar voice.

In each test, a majority of the housecats showed an increased response—flicking ears, moving heads—to the sound of their name. That doesn’t necessarily mean they associate words like Mr. Tinkles, Pearl, or Fluffy with their existence. Researchers believe that cats respond to their name because it often precedes food, a treat, or attention. Because they hear the word so often, they associate the sound with something that involves them. Saying their name might be more akin to ringing a bell than filling them with a sense of identity.

And what about the café cats, who had a less consistent response to the sound of their names? It might be because visitors to these businesses use different pronunciations for the cats, or that their feline friends being called can still mean a treat if they get to the customer more quickly. For a cat, what’s in a name isn’t so much a sense of identity as the promise of a reward.

[h/t Business Insider]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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Why Did Noon Used to Mean 3 p.m.?

3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
Mckyartstudio/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a late sleeper, you might find yourself thinking 12 p.m. seems way too early to be considered midday, and the word noon would much better describe, say, 3 p.m. It turns out that ancient Romans would have agreed with you, if only for etymological reasons.

As Reader’s Digest explains, the days in ancient Rome were split into four periods of three hours each. The first hour was at sunrise around 6 a.m.—called prime, for first—followed by 9 a.m. (terce, denoting the third hour), 12 p.m. (sext, for sixth), and 3 p.m. (none, for ninth).

According to Merriam-Webster, Middle and Old English borrowed the time-keeping tradition, along with the Latin word for ninth, which was changed to nōn and eventually noon. Though we’re not sure exactly when or why noon started referring to 12 p.m. instead of 3 p.m., it could have something to do with Christian prayer traditions. In the Bible, Jesus’s crucifixion is said to have taken place at the ninth hour, and that’s when worshippers partook in their second of three daily prayers; the others were in the morning and evening. It’s possible that hungry monks were behind noon’s gradual shift from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m.—since their daily fast didn’t end until after the midday prayer, they had a built-in motive for moving it earlier.

While we didn’t exactly stay true to the original Latin meaning of noon, there’s another important remnant of ancient Rome hiding in the way we tell time today. Romans referred to 12 p.m. as meridiem, for midday, and so do we. A.M. is an abbreviation for ante meridiem, or before midday, and P.M. means post meridiem, or after midday.

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