Cats Recognize Owners Voices but Don’t Seem to Care

Cats are one of the most popular pets out there. As a result, there is a natural interest in the relationship between cats and cat owners, as shown by the studies carried out on said subject. For instance, it is interesting to note that the University of Tokyo has conducted a recent study showing two things. One, cats are perfectly capable of recognizing their owners’ voices. Two, cats don’t seem to care about that. For those who are curious, the Japanese researchers studied a total of 20 cats. They waited until the cat owners were out-of-sight. After which, the Japanese researchers played three recordings of three strangers calling the cat’s name, a fourth recording of the cat owner calling the cat’s name, and then a fifth recording of another stranger calling the cat’s name. They examined aspects of the cat’s response to each recording, with examples including but not limited to head movements, vocalizations, and eye dilation.

In every case, the cats showed orienting behavior. However, they showed a stronger response when they were played the recordings of their cat owners than when they were played the recordings of strangers. This is the reason that the Japanese researchers concluded that the cats were capable of recognizing their owner’s voices. Having said that, while a dog might have moved towards the source of the sound, the cats showed no such inclination. This is the reason that the Japanese researchers concluded that while the cats were capable of recognizing their owners’ voices, they didn’t care that much. Of course, this is just a single study. As a result, interested individuals can’t draw a lot of conclusions about what happened as well as why it happened, though it is still fun to speculate on said subject.

Why Might This Be the Case?

For instance, it is possible that the cats didn’t come when called because they just didn’t evolve that way. After all, cats followed a very different path to domestication than dogs, which has resulted in very different behaviors in spite of their shared status as domesticated animals. Certainly, interested individuals wouldn’t expect cats and dogs to behave the same as cows and chickens, so it wouldn’t make sense to expect cats to behave the same as dogs. Regardless, those who are curious should know that cats are thought to have domesticated themselves. For those who are curious, agriculture is a very recent phenomenon. The first members of the genus Homo came into existence about two million years ago, while the first members of Homo sapiens came into existence about 300,000 years ago. Meanwhile, agriculture started up about 12,000 years ago, though one can make a good case that practices preceding agriculture started up well before that point in time.

Before agriculture, Homo sapiens and other members of the genus Homo survived by being hunter-gatherers. As such, they moved from place to place on a regular basis, which was necessary because they would exhaust the local sources of food if they stayed in a single place for too long. In those days, humans didn’t have much use for cats and cats didn’t have much use for humans. This state of affairs changed when agricultural societies settled in place. Food storage had always been important. However, it became even more so for farmers compared to hunter-gatherers because they needed to store enough food to keep themselves fed until their next harvest came in. If something happened to the stored food, they would have to ration as well as use a wide range of other strategies to stretch their food supply as much as possible. Something that would have very dangerous consequences for both the very young and the very old at the very least. Unsurprisingly, this meant that farmers took a very dim view of mice, rats, and other vermin that could get into their stored food because it was a matter of life and death for them.

Conveniently, the wild ancestors of domesticated cats fed upon mice, rats, and other vermin. Furthermore, their nature as obligate carnivores meant that they weren’t interested in the stored food of farmers, thus resulting in a double coincidence of wants. As the line of speculation goes, the wild ancestors of domesticated cats started hanging around human communities because the latter’s stored food created a bountiful source of food in the form of vermin for them. Some of these felines were friendlier towards humans than the others, with the result that they won more acceptance compared to their not so friendly counterparts. Naturally, these were the cats that had the most descendants, which is how the species became less and less wild over time until they eventually developed into domesticated cats. However, it is critical to note that the species retained a remarkable degree of independence over the course of its development, thus resulting in their behaviors in the present time.

The way that wild wolves became domesticated dogs is similarly murky. For example, there is a theory that the whole process kicked off with humans capturing wolf pups for the purpose of keeping them as pets. Meanwhile, there is another theory that wolves also domesticated themselves. Essentially, the friendliest wolves were the ones that were most successful when living in proximity to humans, who were less than enthused about the presence of competitors for the same sources of food. As a result, certain members of the species became more and more friendly towards humans until they had become the ancestors of modern dogs.

However, the important point is that humans have used dogs in a very different manner from cats. After all, while our ancestors didn’t breed dogs in the same way that dog enthusiasts do in the present time, they did take a very active role in the process. This can be seen in how there were already different kinds of dogs with different purposes by classical times. Furthermore, this can be seen in how dogs have actually developed to seek assistance from their human companions when troubled by something. In contrast, humans were much more hands-off when it came to cats, which explains why cats are so independent in modern times.

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