If your cat isn't responding to your calls for love, it may be time to consider whether they're just ignoring you.

In a series of experiments with 16 house cats, researchers showed that feline pets know their owners' voices. They also behave differently when their owners talk to them.

Through experiments, it was found that when hearing a familiar sound, cats often froze, wagged their tails, blinked their eyes, or twitched their ears.

If the owner says the same thing in their normal voice, the cats seem to sense that it is not meant for them.

Higher pitches, short utterances, and repetitive sounds are common features of human speech when confronted with infants or pets. For example, dogs have been shown to perceive the tone and meaning in their owners' voices.

Researchers have found that cats can distinguish speech directed at other humans from speech directed at them specifically.

But this was only the case when the sentences were uttered by cat owners. When a stranger spoke in the same, cat-specific way, the pet didn't show much interest. They just go about their business as usual.

The findings suggest that adult house cats unaccustomed to strangers only learn to decipher the nuances of their owners' speech. In other words, the closeness between cats and humans may be based on experience rather than an innate preference for the friendly, intimate qualities of the human voice.

Future experiments should compare whether more socialized cats learn to respond better to speech from strangers. For example, cats in cat cafes seem to be highly adaptable to human speech, knowing not only their own names but also the names of other cats around them.

The house cats in the current study all lived in studio apartments, and most had only one owner. To reduce the stress of the unknown, experiments were conducted in each cat's apartment. Their owners were also always in the room, although they sat quietly and did not interact with the cats throughout the experiment.

During the experiment, the experimenter played a series of recordings with a 30-second break in between. The recordings were made during previous natural interactions between the cat and its owner, including calling the cat's name.

Afterward, the pet owners recorded saying the same thing they said to the cat in the same tone as they would have said to another person. Finally, a stranger was recorded imitating the host's words and tone in all scenes.

When the final audio was played to a house cat, the pet's behavior changed only when the owner's voice spoke in a feline way.

For example, a cat may stop grooming itself to call back or look toward the sound. Other times, the cat's response is less obvious, with its ears quietly turned to the owner's voice while appearing uninterested. The cat's behavior did not change when it heard a stranger's voice, or when the owner's voice sounded like he was talking to another human being.

The study was based on only a small number of pets, all of which had similar lifestyles. But the authors say their findings are a good start to understanding how our pets understand us.

The authors write: "The findings highlight the importance of one-on-one relationships for indoor companion cats, which do not appear to generalize the communication established with one to all human interlocutors."