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Cats Understand Their Owners’ Voices But Choose To Ignore Them

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Cats Understand Their Owners’ Voices But Choose To Ignore Them

Cats have evolved to recognise their owners' voices, but if you think that's going to make them any more obedient then you're sadly mistaken because they also choose to ignore them.

A 2013 study from the University of Tokyo studied 20 pet cats in their own homes and found that, although cats did appear to recognise their owner's voice they didn't seem to let it change their behaviour.

To conduct the study, researchers waited until the cats owners were out of sight and then played a recording of three different, unknown voices calling the cats names, then the owner's voice saying the cats name and then one more stranger's voice.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
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The researchers then analysed the cats responses to the voices, looking at things such as ear and tail movements, vocalisation and eye dilation.

When the cats heard their names being called they were found to display 'orienting behaviours', such as moving their heads around to try and work out where the noise was coming from.

And the cats showed greater displays of these orienting behaviours when they heard their owners voices, suggesting that they could pick their voice out from the others.

However, the researchers also noted that despite these responses the cats didn't actually move regardless of who was calling.

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Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The study's authors Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka Shinozuka said: "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."

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

The paper adds: "Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans' orders. Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human-cat interaction."

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We saw this play out in a real-life situation recently, when an Avanti West Coast Pendolino train from London Euston to Manchester was delayed almost three hours because a kitty decided to lie on top of one of the carriages and refused to move.

Credit: ITV
Credit: ITV

Joe Hendry, Network Rail station manager for Euston, told 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 organised for passengers to get onto a different train for the rescue to take place."

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia

Topics: Interesting, Animals, Cats

Claire Reid
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