Male Domestic Cats Respond Less Well Than Females to Calls from Kittens

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.

Mother and kitten
Mother and kitten
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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.

3 thoughts on “Male Domestic Cats Respond Less Well Than Females to Calls from Kittens”

  1. I have a few domesticated altered cats, so I’m not an expert on this subject.
    But, what I know is that a feral male sperm donor has no interest in his offspring (nor, the offspring of his other many encounters). However, a mother cat is exquisitely in tuned with her babies.
    It seems odd to me since some big wild cats help nurture and raise their young, like lions. Even coyotes do the same, though not in the same family ofcourse.
    The apple of today’s cat didn’t fall far from their big cat ancestors; so, why is it different today?

  2. I just realized I said the same thing that Michael did, but the scientists simply don’t get cats yet, do they? Even when they set up experiments they break their own rules by expecting a certain outcome based on anthropomorphic pre-conceptions. I know they need to hypothesize, but they should know by now that they have a poor record of explaining cat behavior.

  3. This is so funny because I was just thinking about adding a line to my dating profile that I don’t dig kids, and photos of ladies cooing babies don’t get me going. I disliked my father, never married or had kids so I know what my deal is, but I’ve noticed that all my male cats have been more attentive to miaows from any cat OR human babies than my female cats. The guys are better buddies, rescuers and snugglers too, though I’ve had a fair share of “daddies’ girls”. So, I’m not sure if this wasn’t instead an indicator of momma-type cats simply reserving their energy for the more necessary cries from kittens. All my male cats have been gallant and very paternal though none of them were fathers that I know of.


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