Study: Cats recognize owners’ voices but seem too cool to care

November 21, 2013

By MICHIKO NAKAMURA/ Staff Writer

Cats can differentiate between voices, but they continue to show a “don’t care” attitude even when their owners are calling, a study by Japanese researchers found.

The team, led by Atsuko Saito, a researcher of comparative cognitive science at the University of Tokyo, observed 20 pet cats at their homes for eight months.

They studied how the cats reacted to the voices of their owners and strangers through a method widely used in scientific studies to evaluate the cognitive abilities of infants and animals.

The results showed that 50 percent to 70 percent of the cats turned their heads--a typical reaction to a sound--when they heard a human calling. Thirty percent moved their ears.

But only 10 percent mewed or moved their tails--a cat’s equivalent of replying, the researchers said.

The percentages were about the same regardless of whether their owners or strangers were calling the animals.

However, a closer look at the cats’ responses showed something different. The cats had more intensity in reacting to their owners’ voices than to those of strangers.

The researchers said this suggests that cats can distinguish between the voices of their owners and strangers, but respond in a much subtler way than dogs.

Saito, a cat owner, said the research method cannot be applied to pet dogs because they are generally friendly to anybody.

She is preparing a similar study of horses.

By MICHIKO NAKAMURA/ Staff Writer
  • 1
submit to reddit
"Cat cafes," where customers can hang out with cats and drink coffee or tea, have grown in popularity in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

"Cat cafes," where customers can hang out with cats and drink coffee or tea, have grown in popularity in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Toggle
  • "Cat cafes," where customers can hang out with cats and drink coffee or tea, have grown in popularity in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

More AJW