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Better Understanding How Cats Communicate with Humans

Pet parent’s love to talk to their furry family members. We don’t just ask them to sit or stay. Often often we talk to them about anything and everything. Many of us believe that our pets understand us and in some case, our ets even seem to respond with barks or meows.

But do our pets really understand us and do they respond in the same regional accents that we have? If you live in Manhattan are your pets tawking back to you with a New York accent? When you hear someone talking to their dog in Spanish, ever wonder if the dog has a Spanish accent?

Well, you’re not the only one wondering about cats and communications with humans. A Swedish cat lover and phonetics researcher at Lund University, Suzanne Schotz, is doing a study to find out how cats communicate and if there are specific for breeds or if that communication is regional.

For her experiment, Schotz is recruiting cats and their humans from Lund, in far southern Sweden, and from Stockholm, 310 miles north because people from both regions have discernible dialects, Her goal is to discover if their cats do, too.

Schotz aims to discover whether the cats' meows mean different things, and if they respond differently based on how we talk to them. According to Schotz, cats meow because they use both visual and vocal signals to communicate with humans, but they need to vocalize to get our attention. With other cats, they tend to rely on visual and olfactory signals. When a cat says “meow,” it’s normally addressed to a human being, not another cat.

Schotz notes that cats and their human companions seem to develop a pidgin language in order to communicate better. She is using the research to determine whether the similarities are in the languages or whether they're specific to a cat/human pair.

Schotz has observed that people often use a similar speaking style when they talk to cats and small children. They use a higher-than-average pitch, they have a larger pitch range, and the melody of their speech tends to have specific patterns, often described as “sing-song.”

For Schotz’s research, she is conducting two studies - one analyzing the melody in the cat vocalizations, to see if there are patterns in different emotions or in different breeds; the other study will expose cats to different kinds of human speech to see how they respond.

As for the specifics on how the research will be conducted, Schotz and her team will record different speaking styles from a number of humans and then go to the cat’s home and place loudspeakers behind a screen where different melodies and human speaking voices and videotape will be played back to the cats to get their responses - ear movements, head movements, body posture, and more.

The research is also expected to look at whether or not certain breeds use certain melodies to communicate or if cats living in countries where human speech has certain melodic patterns will vocalize differently.

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IdealPetX Staff
IdealPetX Staff