Cats match voice and face: cross-modal representation of humans in cats (Felis catus)


We examined whether cats have a cross-modal representation of humans, using a cross-modal expectancy violation paradigm originally used with dogs by Adachi et al. (Anim Cogn 10:17–21, 2007). We compared cats living in houses and in cat cafés to assess the potential effect of postnatal experience. Cats were presented with the face of either their owner or a stranger on a laptop monitor after playing back the voice of one of two people calling the subject’s name. In half of the trials the voice and face were of the same person (congruent condition) whereas in the other half of trials the stimuli did not match (incongruent condition). The café cats paid attention to the monitor longer in incongruent than congruent conditions, showing an expectancy violation. By contrast, house cats showed no similar tendency. These results show that at least café cats can predict their owner’s face upon hearing the owner’s voice, suggesting possession of cross-modal representation of at least one human. There may be a minimal kind or amount of postnatal experiences that lead to formation of a cross-modal representation of a specific person.

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This study was financially supported by the Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) No. 17J08974 to S. Takagi, No. JP16J1034 to M. Arahori, No. JP16J08691 to H. Chijiiwa, No. 25118003 to A. Saito and Nos. 25240020, 26119514, 16H01505, 15K12047, 25118002, and 16H06301 to K. Fujita from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The authors acknowledge with thanks to all owners and cats who volunteered in this study. The authors also wish to thank Dr. James R. Anderson for editing the article.

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Correspondence to Saho Takagi.

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This study adhered to the ethical guidelines of Kyoto University, and was approved by the Animal Experiment Committee of the Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University.

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Takagi, S., Arahori, M., Chijiiwa, H. et al. Cats match voice and face: cross-modal representation of humans in cats (Felis catus). Anim Cogn 22, 901–906 (2019).

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  • Cross-modal representation
  • Cats
  • Felis catus
  • Expectancy violation method