Do cats recognize people?

Do cats recognize people?

Cats have always had a reputation for being very independent and not very affectionate animals, which is why many people think that these cats do not feel too much affection towards their guardians and that they would not be able to recognize them after spending time apart or if they they find themselves surrounded by other people, but is this really true?

Do cats distinguish people?

Despite what you may believe about the interested personality and surly temperament of cats, the answer to this question is very clear: yes, cats are perfectly capable of differentiating people from others and, therefore, of know who their tutors are.

First of all, this is possible because cats create an emotional bond with the people they live with and who are part of their social group. Although they may seem less expressive than dogs and, therefore, it is more difficult for us to interpret their behavior at times, anyone who lives or has lived with a cat knows that the vast majority of them are, in fact, very affectionate animals. those who like to spend time resting or interacting with their tutors, with whom they create a close and special relationship.

Similarly, cats also individually recognize each of the people or animals that live in the same home and can generate a different bond with each of them . Depending on how the relationship between the cat and each guardian is, it is possible that the feline varies its behavior depending on who it is with at any given time.

How do cats recognize people?

We already know that cats recognize people, but how do they do it? Cats, like dogs, are guided more by smell and hearing than by sight, and the same thing happens when it comes to differentiating between some people and others. Next, we analyze how the cat uses its main senses in the recognition of other individuals.


Felines have a vision adapted to hunting, which means that they see much better than us in low light conditions and that they are able to detect movement with great precision. However, their color vision is poorer than that of humans and they are also unable to distinguish as many details as we do, which means that they have difficulty recognizing people just by looking at them.

However, cats are very observant and can easily learn the meaning of our gestures, facial expressions and body postures, allowing them to respond to them quickly and efficiently.


Cats are capable of pointing their ears in almost any direction to locate the source of a sound and have a very fine and well-developed sense of hearing. This, together with their memory and learning capacity, allows them to perfectly remember and identify the tone of voice of their tutors , distinguishing it from that of other people, they can even recognize them by the way they walk just by listening to the sound of their steps!

A study carried out in Japan in 2013 revealed that cats react more intensely to the voice of their guardians even if they are out of sight, becoming alert and orienting their head and ears in the direction from which it comes. Sound. Now, even if they recognize us by our tone of voice, it does not necessarily mean that they will come to us when we call them or that they will obey our orders. Cats recognize people, yes, but this is very different from actually doing everything we want.


Although we are not even aware of it, each person has a characteristic smell that is a very intense hallmark for our cat, who, with his highly developed sense of smell, is capable of detecting it, processing it and storing it in his memory for a long time. This implies that cats can also differentiate people from others through their smell and that they perfectly recognize their guardians after briefly sniffing them

How to know if a cat recognizes me?

If you have ever wondered if your cat is aware of who you are and, therefore, if he would be able to recognize you after spending time apart or when there are more people around, these are some signs that could indicate that, in fact, your cat loves you. recognizes and is glad to see you:

Walk or run towards you with its tail held high : the position of the cat’s tail gives a lot of information about the emotions the animal is feeling. If when your furry friend sees or hears you, he approaches you keeping his tail completely straight, vertical and not bristling, a good sign, it means that he has recognized you and is happy to see you. If you want to know more about the interpretations that a high tail can have in cats, we recommend you read this other article: » What does it mean when a cat has a high tail? «.
It comes meowing when it sees you : cats meow to communicate with their guardians and get their attention, so it is common that, the moment your cat recognizes you, it approaches you meowing softly and even purring. However, with strangers they tend to be more cautious and generally remain silent before them, very attentive to any movement or sign of danger.
Rubs its face against you – Once the cat gets to where you are, it will most likely sniff you to make sure it’s you and gather olfactory information, then rub its face and flanks against your ankles or any other part of your body in a movement known as facial marking . With this greeting, what he does is impregnate his own scent on you to create a familiar atmosphere, which indicates that he feels calm and glad to meet you again, an important member of his social group.
Lies on his back : After performing the face marking, your cat may end up lying on the ground next to you, romping and exposing his belly. In this position, the feline is very vulnerable, so he only does it before those people he recognizes, with whom he has a bond of friendship and in whom he fully trusts.


Saito, A., Shinozuka, K., (2013), Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus). Animal Cognition 16, 685–690.

  • Vitale, K.R., Behnke, A.C., Udell, M.A.R., (2019), Attachment bonds between domestic cats and humans. Current Biology 29, R864–R865.

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