Do Cats Understand Words? Here’s What You Need to Know

Sometimes cats act in response to our words, this makes us wonder “do cats understand words?” While many cats get attracted to the sound of the human voice, domesticated ones can develop the ability to identify specific words. 

According to a study at Tokyo’s Sophia University, cats can discern their names within a group of words, at least. I’ve proven this with my cat Watson because he will come to me whenever I say his name and not the “pspspsps”, sound used to get the attention of a cat. Since many of us love talking to our cats, this fact is somewhat comforting.

do cats understand words

However, the same study found that cohabiting cats/pets in a multi-pet household will often mistake the other pet’s name as theirs. I personally observed this between my cat Watson and my Goldie pup Sherlock.

I know that you have many questions right now, like if cats understand kisses or commands. Below are some of the quick answers to these queries:

can cats understand humans

  • Do cats understand kisses? Cats understand that kisses are affectionate gestures. They may also do it back to you. The manner of bumping your nose to theirs is also a positive thing for house cats.
  • Do cats understand human meows? Cats use meowing to communicate with humans and no one else. But what if you meow back? Will the kitty understand it? The truth is that cats don’t usually find a difference between your meow and casual speaking. Please read here: Why Does My Cat Meow When I Sneeze
  • Do cats understand commands? While dogs are popular for following verbal commands, cats can do it too! However, cats are more headstrong and independent than dogs, so they may prefer to ignore your commands.
  • Do cats understand love? Cats understand love but not in the way you say it, but in how you show it to them. Feeding, grooming, petting, and physical affection all make your kitty feel loved and valued. That’s more than what words could mean for your little pet.
  • Do cats understand ‘no’? If taught consistently, your house cat can understand the meaning of ‘no’. It’s a matter of associating the word with a limitation or a sign to stop. To train your cat to respond positively to a command, you must use positive reinforcement.
  • Do cats understand angry words? The way you say it, probably the only thing your cat will understand from you is your anger. Unless you’ve trained your cat to identify such words, it’s not likely to pick up what you’re saying.

How many words can cats understand?

How many words can cats understand

According to experts, your furry friend can understand about 25 words and up to 35 words for the brainy bunch. However, this doesn’t mean that cats are less intelligent than dogs. Cats and dogs have their own way of communicating, not just by following commands.

Even though cats can only understand a few dozen words, they can make over 100 vocalizations. Each of these vocalizations has a meaning that typical humans can’t decipher. With cats, communication is a two-way street.

You may also wonder, what do cats think about all day? When I saw my cat Watson staring blankly at our window, this question popped into my head.

For the most part, your cat’s memories are fleeting. One minute the kitty is happily playing. Then it could be grumpy at another time. Cats are beings of mystique, and you will only know what they are thinking by understanding their body language.

Nevertheless, you can always train your cat to understand basic commands like ‘Sit’, ‘Fetch’, and ‘Come’. The method is similar to dogs: positive reinforcement. You can use a clicker and a few treats so your cat will associate the word to a specific outcome that will get them the yummy rewards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do cats know their names?

A: Yes, cats will know their name if you use it often. However, house cats tend to be dismissive about it even if they understand the word. However, cats living in a single home will often interchange their names.

Q: Do cats understand words like dogs?

A: Cats don’t usually understand our words the way dogs do. For that matter, cats can only understand several words, while dogs can recall more. Consistent and daily training will increase your cat’s recall of some command words, though the results will vary widely.

Q: Do cats feel the love?

A: Yes, cats can feel love. However, cats communicate and understand love through physical gestures and not verbal affirmation. Although some cats are not showy or affectionate, your efforts don’t go unnoticed.

Q: How do I tell my cat I love him?

A: Telling your cat you love him is more than just saying the words. You can show your love by giving the cat toys, a comfortable bed, food, and lots of kisses. Playing and bonding with your cat also let the kitty know that you value her.

Q: Do cats know when you cry?

A: Initial studies found that cats can recognize our facial expressions differently from dogs. While cats can identify your current mood, it’s not a guarantee that your pet will empathize. Also, your cat may associate your crying with increased petting and hugging.


Do cats understand words? To some extent, yes. Cats prefer to communicate through body language and vocalization. So if you want to know what your pet is thinking, you should know how to pick up clues from their movements. With cats, a lot of things are a mystery.

The process of conveying your commands and love can be improved with practice. Practice more often and your cat will remember more words than normal cats. Still, small acts of love can be more effective at strengthening your bond with your lovely cat than lots of words. 

You can read more informative articles about cats and other pet animals at Pet Cosset

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