Dogs love to please us. They are trainable and come running when we call them! On the other hand, cats seem happy to ignore us. They have a no-nonsense reputation and often disregard the attention given to them by humans. Why is this? Do cats actually ignore us, or do they they simply not understand people? Let's investigate.
Can cats hear us?
If your cat seems to ignore you, it's not because she can't hear you. Studies show that cats can recognize their owner's voice. A study that observed 20 house cats over eight months found that 50 to 70 percent of the cats turned their heads at the sound of their owner's voice and 30 percent moved their ears. This is known as orienting behavior. When the cats turn their heads or move their ears, it shows that they can indeed hear and somewhat acknowledge human voices. Feline reactions however, are very subtle and not very demonstrative.
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Do cats understand us?
Although cats can hear us, it's still uncertain if they actually comprehend human communication. Cats operate heavily out of instinct, with a concentration on survival. Because of this, their actions are self-motivated. They eat because they're hungry, not because we say, "Here kitty, kitty, it's dinner time!" Studies and cat owners will tell you that kitties are capable of high levels of affection and love. This does not necessarily mean they will do what we want them to do. They are essentially the moody teenagers of the domesticated animal kingdom.
Is my cat ignoring me on purpose?
It's important to understand how exactly cats communicate and, perhaps more importantly, how they don't communicate. Humans constantly vocalize their emotions, needs, and demands. Dogs, although less vocal, still communicate with each other, as well as humans, through barking, panting, moaning and body language. Dogs actively moderate their behavior to bridge the communication gap between canine and human. They are trained to respond to us and have the natural ability to assimilate to our needs. This is not the case with cats.
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Cats ignore humans because they were never bred or trained to listen and obey like dogs. Because cat behavior is based so much on natural survival instincts, they will not communicate if there is no need. Cat mothers in the wild will only use vocal communication with their kittens as a warning or alert to danger. If there is no imminent danger or need to communicate, well, a cat is literally not going to waste her breath. Therefore, if you are calling out to your cat but they don't need anything from you in that moment, they are not likely to respond.
Sure your kitty loves you, but she isn't going to vocalize this, or much of anything else, if it's not absolutely necessary. Cats act independently and aren't going to disturb their notorious slumber or hours of relaxation just to return your call. And you thought your ex-boyfriend was bad!
Can I train my cat to listen and respond?
Cat training can be tricky and may never mirror the work done with dogs but there are ways to get your cat to come when you call her! It may seem obvious, but the best way to get your cat to come to you is by offering her something she wants. Usually, that's going to be more than just your loving voice calling out to her.
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Entice your kitty with a treat or some delicious food when you're searching for her. If you can't find your cat, walking around the house with a fresh bowl of wet cat food is almost sure to bring sleeping beauty out of her favorite hiding spot. If you don't want to spoil your cat too much with treats, try the jingle of a favorite toy! Don't worry. She'll come around.