Cats Recognise Their Owners’ Voices But Choose To Ignore Them, Suggests Study

by : Tom Percival on : 22 Feb 2018 19:06
Tilly, Benard and Dave

As the proud owner of a gorgeous black cat and self-declared cat-person, I can say with some certainty that cats are… well let’s just say cats can be rude. 


Even when you shout a cat all it’ll do is twitch its ear, only coming over for a cuddle when it wants something.

Now though thanks to the hard work of scientists at the University of Tokyo, we can say with empirical certainty that they’re certifiably neglectful.

These researchers found that while cats were more than capable of recognising the voices of their owners, they often chose to ignore them.


It’s not just because people who own cats have a tendency to dress them up in jumpers, carry them around like babies and generally annoy them either (Don’t all cat owners do this?), it’s actually an important evolutionary defence.

You see apparently unlike man’s best friend, the dog, cats were never actually domesticated by early humans, instead, they simply moved in with our ancestors to eat the vermin who were attracted to primitive grain stores.

This basically means that cats domesticated themselves and therefore they don’t respond to instruction.

So while they know their owner’s voice, they don’t feel any need to come to you or obey you when you ask them to do something.

I guess that makes cat’s ‘man’s most ambivalent roommate’ as opposed to their best friend?

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The researchers, Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka Shinozuka, worked this out by taking twenty house cats, waiting until the owner was out of sight and then playing them recordings of three strangers calling their names, followed by their owner, followed by another stranger.


They then analysed the cats’ responses to the calls by measuring a number of factors including ear, tail and head movement, vocalisation, eye dilation and how much they shifted their paws to move.

The cats showed a greater response when their owner’s voice was played but they refused to move for any of the recordings.

My cat and I, you can see the sheer joy in his face - Tom Percival/UNILAD

Saito and Shinozuka wrote in their study:

These 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.

Despite the news that cats are a little ignorant it’s important to remember that the study both ‘dog owners and cat owners do not differ significantly in their reported attachment level to their pets’.

I knew my Holmes loved me as much as I loved him. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to dress him in his favourite jumper.

Tom Percival

More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism. Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV. He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.

Topics: Animals