RESEARCHERS AT MANY universities around the world have devoted time and resources to answering a question that has mystified tens of millions of Americans: Is my cat ignoring me? The likely answer? Cats know when you’re addressing them; they just may not care.

Cats and dogs have fundamentally opposite personalities that can naturally lead to different relationships with their humans. Cats are usually more independent, cunning and don’t particularly need your love and affection. Dogs are more social creatures, playful and friendly.

Scientists believe cats can distinguish their own names, but that doesn’t mean they’ll come when called. This study was published in Scientific Reports April 4 and parts appeared in a front page Wall Street Journal article.

According to U.S. Census data, there are 78 million pet dogs in the United States and an estimated 86 million pet cats. More households have a dog. Many households have more than one cat.

Animal lovers have long known about the healing power of pets and the medical community caught on in a big way. Just about every type of pet, from parakeets to horses, can provide a nurturing experience for those in need of a special kind of help.

It may come in a moment of play, being quietly close, listening to a story or providing comfort as this type of therapist can give. These therapists are the four-legged kind. Specially-trained dogs and cats can provide love, compassion, affection, attention and a well-timed tail wag.

Dogs are most often used to provide therapeutic experience for those suffering physical and emotional problems. Cats also make great therapy animals, but their talents are often underestimated because of their limited personalities.

The experts say cats are valuable as permanent residents at nursing homes, providing soothing energy.

Scientists have less understanding of cats’ cognitive and social abilities compared with those of dogs. Dogs are eager to participate in research studies while cats choose to remain a mystery. Is that by choice or another reason?

Dogs come when you call them. Cats take a message and get back to you when they are good and ready. Dogs will tilt their heads and listen whenever you talk. Cats yawn and close their eyes. So who’s the boss?

A dog looks at all the things you provide for her and says “You must be God.” A cat looks at all the things you provide for him and says “I must be God.”

Dogs will bark to wake you up if the house is on fire. Cats will quietly sneak out the back door. Dogs will sit, lie down and heel on command. Cats will smirk and walk away. If you want a pet that will be a good watchdog to protect you and your property, go with a dog.

Dogs will greet you and lick your face when you come home from work. Cats will be mad that you went to work at all. Dogs will sit on the car seat next to you and be happy to go anywhere. Cats have to have their own private box or they will not go at all.

Some highly-trained dogs can distinguish between more than 1,000 different words or symbols. Dogs can assign meaning to specific sounds. Dogs are eager to please their owners. They obey commands and crave attention. They consider themselves and their master a team.

Cats hunt alone. Dogs prefer to live in packs as did their ancestor, the wolf. Cats have no problem spending hours alone, but dogs need to feel accompanied or they’ll become depressed.

Dogs will do everything they can to please their owner because they see them as the leader of the pack.

Many cat owners told researchers they believe their cats recognize their names. But they admit that their beloved cat often chooses not to react with anything more than a twitch of their ears or heads. Are they in denial?

Research showed cats probably don’t take ownership of their specific name, but are more likely to associate the sound of the name with a reward such as food, petting or playing.

Cats may not come running when they are called or do more than glance in a human’s general direction. There is research showing that when given the choice between food, toys and human interaction, the majority of cats choose human interaction. You knew that, right?

Cat lovers will tell you that if you go to an animal shelter and walk by the kitten cages, those abandoned kittens sense they are in danger and they know their survival is totally dependent on being adopted. They will beg you to take them home.

The experts believe cats are adept at manipulating our behavior. Cats are smart enough to know that an act of affection will earn them a reward. The truth is, the owners reward them for doing what they want to do anyways, such as sitting on your lap.

The mind games never end.