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Ask A Vet: Why Does My Cat Ignore Me When I Call Her?

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Have you ever been calling your cat only to have him glance over his shoulder and keep right on going? Yea, me too. Why does he do that? He does not seem to have any malice, only indifference. People sometimes label this indifference as aloof and uncaring, but perhaps we are expecting our cats to be very “un-cat-like”. Think about cats as a species and your understanding will enhance your relationship with your cat. They are not human and as their caregivers, we need to truly understand them.

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The key to this behavior lies in who your cat is. The traits that she got from her ancestors still define who she is today. Wild felines are somewhat solitary and do not tend to communicate through sound. They cannot speak to one another and often the only sounds that wild cats share are those between mother and young, like kittens mewing when they’re hungry.

This throwback to being a kitten may be what causes our cats to meow at us when they want something, but typically mother cats only call to their young when there is danger and only for a short time in the development of the young. So if your adult cat sees you as a parent figure, it might seem odd or foreign to her that you would call to her when there is no threat.

Cats are not wired to respond to calls once they are mature, so even though you have a family relationship with your cat, he may not even realize that you are calling to him unless you have trained him to come for food or affection.

One must also consider that cats must be somewhat single-minded in order to be a successful hunter. They have to be able to lock onto the prey with all their focus and exclude all distraction, so it might be that your cat is thinking about something else and cannot pull his attention onto you. You might not be able to see what your cat is thinking about or doing, but he is choosing to prioritize something over your distraction. This too is a survival trait.

“Boys will be boys” and cats will be cats. Don’t take it personally if she does not come when you call. You might be expecting her to act out of character for her species. If your cat does come when you call him, either you have been very consistent in your reward of his behavior or he just wants to prioritize you above everything else. Either option is a tribute to you!

 

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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