The answer is most likely “yes”.
But you can’t be sure without checking for yourself. If you’re wondering how to do so without a teleportation machine, read on (if you don’t have a cat, but a dog or other animal, you can test them in a similar way).
Do it yourself
What you need is a relatively big room familiar to the animal, a voice recording device, two speakers with remote control (or another person to help you), and a video camera or another way to observe the cat in the room.
First, record yourself calling your pet. Place one speaker inside the room, as far as possible from the door. Then leave the animal alone in the room and play your recording a couple of times from behind the door. Then immediately play your recording via the speaker inside the room and observe your cat. Does it look surprised?
To make sure that it’s not just a sudden noise from the room that triggers a reaction, as a control, you can play a recording of another person calling your pet’s name.
This is roughly how researchers from Japan tested whether cats can mentally map the location of their owners. If they can do that they should be surprised if their owners suddenly appear in a new location. Since real teleportation is not possible (yet), scientists simulated it using the voice recordings.
Earlier studies already showed that cats show so-called “object permanence” – if an object disappears from their sight, they still remember that it exists and where it should be approximately. And cats have very good hearing and can infer the location of unseen prey using sound. They can also recognize their owner’s voice.
The results of the Japanese study suggest that cats can also spatially map the location of others and are surprised* when their owner’s voice suddenly moves from one location to another. Cats were more surprised when they heard their owner’s voice from a new location (inside the room), compared to hearing a stranger’s voice, or to their owner calling from the previous location (behind the door).
So, cats seem to know where you are based on sound, and have a mental model of where you could be within a short time frame of hearing you. Such ability to map living objects to a location, and to understand temporal and spatial relationships is probably very important when catching prey in conditions of poor visibility.
If you decide to test how your cat, dog or other pet reacts to teleportation, please let me know the results in the comments below.
* surprise in this study was assessed by 8 independent people based on multiple behaviours, like moving ears, turning the head, movement, on a scale between 0 and 4 (you can check the examples of surprise levels 0 and 4 here).
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Photo: Nennieinszweidrei from Pixabay.
I suspect the cats’ surprise is due to them only briefly thinking that humans have mastered teleportation (something cats mastered hundreds of years ago) but then realize they’ve only mastered remote controls (which cats mastered thousands of years ago).
😉 I don’t know why the researchers didn’t think of that conclusion!