Have you ever wondered what your cat's meows mean? And perhaps more importantly... do cats have accents, like people do? A Swedish research team is going to explore these questions in a new study examining the ways cats communicate with humans. Additionally, the researchers will be looking at the way cats respond to the different melodies of the human voice, and hopefully learn how cats prefer us to speak to them — in the common baby voice ("Oh fluffy wuffy, you're so cute and teensy weensy!"), or as one adult to another ("Sir, would you like a bowl of milk?").
The researchers hail from Lund University in Sweden, and the study is scheduled to take place over the next five years. They will bring together cats and their owners from two different regions in Sweden — Lund and Stockholm — which will allow them to see if cats really do speak different dialects. According to Susanne Schotz, a researcher for the study, cats do indeed consciously change their melody and intonation to convey different messages. And here's a fun fact: As kittens, they meow to communicate with one another; but as adult cats, they no longer do this. They're actually meowing to communicate with us. Wouldn't it only make sense that they can change the "tone" of their voices?
Here, take an inside look at the current study for yourselves:
Upon first reading about all this, I thought it was "cute" — awww, a study about cats! But the closer I looked, the more I realized that this study has some serious potential to take us into the minds of cats and how animals talk to us. Did you know that studies have already found "accents" in birds and sperm whales from different regions? It looks like we might not be all that different from our animal friends, after all.
It may come as a surprise that there is so much to learn about cats' behavior — especially since, compared to dogs, cats are viewed as far less expressive and outgoing. But it turns out that they give us just as many clues about their feelings as dogs do; we just frequently miss or misinterpret them. Plus, there is way less research delving into the minds of cats.
It goes without saying that the findings of this study could help us better learn how to satisfy our cats needs. Imagine being able to discern between "I'm hungry" and "I'm starving — help!" Think about being able to tell the difference between "That's uncomfortable" and "Ouch! That hurts." Can you imagine how much we could improve not only our relationships with our pets, but their own well-being?
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