A new study conducted at the University of Helsinki explores that age-old question – what do dogs think about humans? Researchers showed their dog test subjects photos of familiar and unfamiliar human and dog faces, then recorded their responses to the visual stimuli. The dogs looked at the familiar faces much longer than those they did not recognize; this indicates that they have the ability to distinguish the difference AND get pleasure from those faces they know. These dogs had not been trained to recognize faces, and yet they seemed eager to complete the task. Our pups really can recognize us, and do look forward to seeing us each day!
As for cats? A similar study out of the University of Tokyo confirmed that our favorite felines can distinguish their owner’s voice, but they don’t necessarily react. Historically, cats have become less domesticated than dogs, which explains why they act more independent. As a result, cats are less likely than dogs to respond to their owner’s call – and may not even see their owner as a human at all.
According to another recent study, cats see their owners as, well, big cats. In his new book, Cat Sense, Dr. John Bradshaw explains that even a fiercely independent cat sees their owner as a “mama cat.” This is why a cat is prone to leap into freshly cleaned laundry or onto the table as you unpack groceries; as you put things down, your cat thinks you are providing them with something.
So dogs can recognize our faces, and cats think of us as big, goofy cats. In any case, we’re happy they consider us a part of the family!