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Cats just don't care that we're talking to them, Japanese study confirms

The reasons for a cat's aloof and snobbish behavior are rooted in their evolutionary history, scholars said.

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I get you, I just don't care. (Mike Lawrie/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study demonstrated what every cat owner already knows: Cats know that we're talking to them, but they simply don't care.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo found that although cats were able to recognize the voice of their owner, they often chose to ignore them.

The study looked at 20 housecats in their homes.

Researchers played recordings of three strangers calling the cats by their names, followed by the voice of their owner, and then another stranger.

With each recording, the cats' responses were noted, including head, ear, paw and tail movement, along with eye dilation.

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When the cats heard their names being called, they showed "orienting behavior" in order to figure out where the voice was coming from.

Only 10 percent of the cats moved their tails or meowed when their owner called their name.

None of the cats moved their bodies to find the voice.

“These results indicate that cats do not actively respond with communicative behavior to owners who are calling them from out of sight, even though they can distinguish their owners’ voices,” wrote the authors.

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

The reasons for a cat's aloof and snobbish behavior were rooted in its evolutionary history, scholars said.

Unlike dogs, cats were not bred by humans to be loyal and domesticated. Instead, cats "domesticated themselves" in order to get into our houses and grain stores to hunt mice.

Dogs, in other words, were made to live with us and do what we tell them to do, whereas cats were just using us for room and board.

The study was published in the journal Animal Cognition.

mindbird 11 months ago
I think cats are changing in response to domestication. I have had two cats who come when they are called and seemed in general more dog-like than the (admitted) majority. I suspect the came from lineages that have been domesticated for more generations.
Smooth Edward 11 months ago
Why should cats care if I'm talking to them? Nobody else does. Nobody owns a cat. They allow you to share your space with them.
Jennifer Rose 11 months ago
The cats that moved their tails when their owners called to them were irritated at the interruption of their naps/daydreams about chicken.