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Sorry pet owners, turns out your cat really is ignoring you

Your cat has no trouble recognizing your voice – but Morris or Fifi still chooses to ignore it, according to a new study from the University of Japan.

The reason is that cats never evolved to follow orders, although they are more than capable of hearing them, the Independent reports.

In the study of 20 house cats, the researchers monitored their ear, tail and head movements, vocalization, eye dilation and shifting of paws in response to recorded voices of strangers or owners calling the animals by name.

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The cats' responses showed they could easily identify their owners' voices, but even so, they refused to budge on command.

"These results indicate that 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," co-authors Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka Shinozuka wrote. "This cat-owner relationship is in contrast to that with dogs."

Feline indifference is clearly the norm in the pet world, no matter what a crazy cat lady may tell you.

Cats' refusal to obey humans dates back to their early domestication, according to the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition. The common ancestor of the modern house cat cozied up to humans about 9,000 years ago, when they prowled the rodent-infested grain stores of early agricultural communities to catch prey. Cats, the study authors wrote, basically "domesticated themselves."

But instead of allowing themselves to be bred into submission, as dogs did, cats called the shots in the human-pet relationship.

Their legendary aloofness hasn't hurt their popularity with humans, though, which suggests that many animal lovers prefer pets who play hard to get. As the study authors noted, "the behavioural aspects of cats that cause their owners to become attached to them are still undetermined."

Chalk it up to cat power.

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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