Study Claims That Cats Understand Their Owners’ Voices And Actively Ignore Them

Every cat owner knows that their cats’ ears are capable of rotating in various directions – and yet they still somehow manage to ignore us a great deal of the time.

Of course, this leads many cat owners to assume that our cats simply do not understand. However, it seems that is wishful thinking as a 2013 study by the University of Tokyo – which focused on 20 pet cats in their homes – found that cats do, indeed, recognize the voice of their owners. It just so happens to be true: they really are ignoring us.

In order to get the study going, the researchers had to wait until the cats’ owners were out of the room. Then, they would play recordings that featured three recordings – some unknown voices as well as their owner’s voice.

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It was found by the researchers analyzing the cats’ response to the different voices that the cats did display different behaviors to the voices.

By looking at their ear and tail movements, as well as any vocalization or eye dilation, the scientists were able to observe that cats can distinguish their owner’s voice from a different person’s voice.

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However, they also came to the conclusion that, despite knowing they’re being called, cats don’t really make any real efforts to move and respond. In other words, they actively ignore us.

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The research paper, written by Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka Shinozuka, stated, “This cat-owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs. Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders. Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human-cat interaction.”

A well-documented example of this was when an Avanti West Coast Pendolino train bound from London Euston to Manchester got delayed nearly three hours thanks to a rather blissfully ignorant feline, who wanted to nap on top of one of the train carriages and ignore all attempts to get it to move.

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A Network Rail station manager for Euston, Joe Hendry, explained to the Milton Keynes Citizen, “We often have to deal with birds inside the station but in all my time here this is the first train surfing cat! Thankfully curiosity didn’t kill this cat and we’re glad it avoided using up one of its nine lives thanks to the swift action of the station team and Avanti West Coast staff who organized for passengers to get onto a different train for the rescue to take place.”

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This is all too familiar. Cats do understand us, they just choose to pretend not to. How often does your cat ignore you? Let us know!

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