We all know that our pooches will come running to us the moment we call out their names, but have you ever wondered if your cat recognises your voice too? It turns out she does; she just can't be bothered to respond.
Research by the University of Tokyo has shown that cats actually do recognise their owner's voices – they just choose to ignore it.
Reaction & Response
The study examined kitties in their usual home environment, where they were made to hear recordings of strangers' voices together with that of their owners. Their reactions were analysed by measuring a number of factors including vocalisation, eye dilation, and ear, tail, and head movement.
While the cats in the study could not see who was speaking to them, they responded in subtle ways such as moving their heads and ears nearer to the recording. The moment a familiar voice was detected, many of the felines had dilated pupils – a sign of a change in emotion, such as excitement. However, even though they were able to distinguish their owners' voice, none reacted overtly to the sound.
It's About History
Felines' unresponsive behaviour may be due to the early domestication of the species 9,000 years ago when cats came into contact with humans to help with agriculture in areas such as the catching of pests.
Unlike dogs, cats in a way “volunteered” themselves for the job, and were not specifically bred and domesticated to obey humans' orders. Instead, Puss actually ‘wears the pants’ in the human-cat relationship – a notion most cat owners will probably not dispute.
Even though getting a response out of their precious felines is unlikely to ever happen, cat owners can at least take comfort in the fact that their cats actually do recognise their voices!
*This article was updated on 18 Apr 2021. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 26 Apr 2016.