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Yes, Your Cat is Actually Ignoring You

Yes, Your Cat is Actually Ignoring You

If you’ve ever suspected that your feline friend isn’t that interested in you, you were right. There’s even a study to prove it.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo found that although pet cats are capable of recognizing their owner’s voice, the felines usually choose to ignore their calls.

Scientists observed 20 domesticated cats in their homes for eight months to monitor how the animals recognized and responded to different voices — both strangers’ voices and the cats’ owners — calling out the cats’ names.

The study found that 50 percent to 70 percent of the cats turned their heads at the sound and 30 percent moved their ears — typical reactions to hearing any sound.

Just 10 percent of the felines responded to being called by meowing or moving their tails.

In other words, your cat hears you when you call — he just doesn’t care enough to acknowledge it.

Response rates were similar regardless of whether the cats were called by strangers or their owner.

However, the felines did have a “more intense” response to their owner’s voice, indicating that the animals do have a special relationship with the people they know.

The study, published in Animal Cognition journal, suggests that cats’ unresponsive behavior could be rooted in the animal’s evolution.

Modern housecats’ common ancestor was Felis silvestris, a wildcat species that came into contact with humans 9,000 years ago. As people began farming the land, the cats moved in to prey on rodents attracted to crops.

As the study’s authors write, cats essentially “domesticated themselves.”

“Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders. Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human–cat interaction,” the paper reads.

While dogs were bred over thousands of years to respond to commands, the authors say that cats never needed to learn to obey human orders.

The study further notes that although “dogs are perceived by their owners as being more affectionate than cats, dog owners and cat owners do not differ significantly in their reported attachment level to their pets.”

The authors humorously conclude their paper by noting that they’re not sure why cat lovers adore their indifferent felines so much.

“The behavioral aspect of cats that cause their owners to become attached to them are still undetermined,” they write.

Photo credit: anafuentes/flickr


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+ add your own
6:27AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

4/4 of our cats hahaha

3:09PM PDT on Mar 24, 2014

Interesting post thank you for sharing

12:47AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Thank you for the article.

4:32PM PST on Dec 25, 2013

I find that my cat will ignore me if I call her name, but responds pretty well to clicking noises, whistling, and snapping my fingers.

10:45PM PST on Dec 21, 2013


7:24PM PST on Dec 21, 2013

This has not been my experience. The cats that share our home have always not only responded to us but also often participate in what's going on. When I call Grita, the one who sleeps with me usually, she escorts me to our room. She tucks me in, waits while I read or play with my phone or whatever, then often goes out while I'm sleeping. In the morning she sings me little songs to remind me that her dish is empty and it's time for get up and get going. She used to accompany me when I go outside, but she's slowing down. The other three cats, the old one lives on my brother's bed, and the two hunters patrol the mouse issue.
I do agree, however, that it seems to be the cat's choice as much as my own, what she does and whether she responds; but she does respond, usually complies with my requests, and asks very politely if she may eat off my plate. If I say no, she just looks away and says she didn't want it all that much anyway.

1:28PM PST on Dec 19, 2013

Our cat Spanky ignores us sometimes… especially when he is napping. He'd wag his tag furiously when we call him over and over.. ;)

5:18AM PST on Dec 19, 2013

yes, like babies ignore you when you're being boring or unnatural [fake]. they become disinterested, naturally.

6:10AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

My cat doens't ignore me, actually he's more obedient than my Mom's dog. He follows me around, comes when called, and the few times the dog has been mean to me my cat jumps to defend me even when he absolutely adores the dog.

He does ignore me as a punishment every now and then, but usually not for more than literally 2 minutes.

I'd really appreciate if other scientists (I am one too) and people would stop stereotyping fellow humans and animals. It is proven that even sparrows have personality traits, so we should not assume a cat will ignore its owners simply because it's a cat. Could it be that if we expect the cat to ignore us often, he simply reacts to that by doing so?

3:56AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

interesting,thank you

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