Even by cat lovers, cats are often portrayed as uppity or finicky in comparison to our canine friends. Almost all dogs bound to the door to greet their dog parents as they return home; they likely meet you with a wagging tail that lets you know just how happy they are. In comparison, your cat’s singular glance in your direction might not seem like much. But how much of this perception is purely based on cats’ natural body language? As it turns out, your cat might be just as happy to hang off your every word as your dog is — they just have a different way of showing it.
Your cat is listening — as long as someone they love is talking
A study published in Animal Cognition finds evidence that your cat does listen to what you say. Not only are they likely paying attention, they’re likely listening because it’s your voice. “We found that when cats heard their owners using a high-pitched voice, they reacted more than when they heard their owner speaking normally to another human adult,” said Charlotte de Mouzon, an author of the study. “But what was very surprising in our results was that it actually didn’t work when it came from a stranger’s voice.” However, a cat’s natural reactions are harder to read than that of a canine’s. “Their reactions were very subtle,” Dr. de Mouzon said. “It could be just moving an ear or turning the head towards the speaker or even freezing what they were doing.”
Using behavior to better coexist with your cat
This study is an important reminder that sometimes, our cats aren’t being naughty or disrespectful – they’re just being cats. Many cat behaviors are commonly misconstrued as aggressive or inattentive. However, to a cat, these behaviors are far from offensive. Make sure you brush up on cat body language — which can be as subtle as a blink! — for seamless communication with your beloved feline friend.