It’s common knowledge that one of the first thing to teach a pet – how to respond to their own name.
However, recently, researchers found that even though cats can differentiate between their owner’s voice and that of a stranger, they choose to ignore them – for reasons that are perhaps rooted in the evolutionary history of the animal.
“Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders,” the study notes. “Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human–cat interaction.”
Carried out by Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka , from the University of South Florida College of Medicine, the study tested twenty housecats in their own homes; 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, says the Independent.
The researchers then analyzed the cats’ responses to each call by measuring a number of factors including ear, tail and head movement, vocalization, eye dilation and ‘displacement’ – shifting their paws to move.
In the end, when they heard a human calling, 50 to 70 percent of the cats turned their heads and 30 percent moved their ears – typical reactions to hearing any sound. Only 10 percent responded to being called, either by meowing or moving their tails, the study said.
The researchers who led the project, said: “This cat–owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs.
“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.”
The study, published by Springer in the Animal Cognition journal, suggests that the reason for cats’ unresponsive behaviour might be traced back to the early domestication of the species, contrasting this with the relationship of humans to dogs.
“Previous studies suggest that cats have evolved to behave like kittens (around their owners), and humans treat cats similar to the way that they treat babies,” states Mr. Shinozuka, one of the author of the study. “To form such baby-parent like relationships, recognition of owners might be important for cats.”
Another reaserch suggests that some cats even don’t like it when their owners pet them. In fact, it may actually stress them out, according to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.
Researchers from the UK, Brazil and Austria examined the levels of stress hormones in cats that lived alone, in pairs or in small groups in the same house, reports the NY Daily News.
It was discovered that the number of felines living under one roof doesn’t predict their anxiety levels.
“It seems even if they are not best friends, cats may be able to organize themselves to avoid each other without getting stressed,” Daniel Mills, a professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine at the University of Lincoln, said in a release.
Researchers also discovered that kittens under the age of 2 who lived on their own experienced more stress than those that were surrounded by other cats. Data showed that cats who tolerate being touched get the most stressed out about it, compared to the ones that enjoy or dislike it.