Cats don't care: felines ignore their owners on purpose

Published 05 December 2013  |  

(Photo: Milan Jurek)

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered that cats are aware when they are being spoken to, but often choose to ignore it.

The study looked at 20 household cats and documented their behaviour. Three recordings of strangers calling the cats by their names were played, then the voice of their owner, followed by another stranger.

When the cats heard their name being called, researchers noted that they showed "orienting behaviour" in order to work out where the voice was coming from, although only 10 per cent moved their tails or meowed, and none at all actually moved their bodies.

The authors of the study say that the results indicate that "cats do not actively respond with communicative behaviour to owners who are calling them from out of sight, even though they can distinguish their owners' voices".

"This cat-owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs."

Evolutionary history is given as the reason for this differentiation in behaviour. According to scholars, cats "domesticated themselves" in order to get into our houses and grain stores to hunt mice, they weren't bred to be loyal. Dogs, however, have been specifically bred to be domestic pets.

Those who contend "dogs have owners, cats have staff" will be unsurprised by these findings. As the Global Post notes, "Dogs were made to live with us and do what we tell them to do, whereas cats were just using us for room and board."

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