Perhaps it is not surprising that in a recent study scientists came to the conclusion that male cats were less sensitive to variations in the cries of kittens in isolation than female cats.
We know that as a species male cats are not involved in raising their young. These are cats without “paternal care”. A test was set up in which the cries of kittens were recorded. The cries were both in a low state of arousal and in a higher state of arousal by which it is meant that the cries for their mother were low-level and less urgent on the one hand but more urgent on the other hand. That is how I understand the test.
The adult cats were feeding on milk and water when the recordings were played. Sixty-one percent of the time, the cats responded by stopping drinking and turning their head towards the call. The female cats did not alter their response whether they were already mothers or not. However, all females reacted 10% more quickly to kittens making high arousal calls compared to those kittens who were in less distress.
Therefore, the female cats were able to adjust their response based upon the urgency of the call, which in itself is dependent upon the emotional state of the kitten in making the call. In other words, the female adult cats were sensitive to the urgency of the matter and the emotional state of the kitten.
The male cats responded to low arousal cries just as quickly as the females. However, they did not adjust their behaviour to the different levels of urgency of the kitten cries. The scientists who set up the study said that they were surprised that the males responded to the kitten calls at all bearing in mind that they were not involved in raising the kittens.
Females have obviously, and I don’t think that this is surprising, developed a more refined response to the cries of their offspring dependent upon the urgency of the matter and the emotional state of the kitten.
Source: The study.