Does your cat speak with the same accent as you?

Sweden study

Swedish scientists are conducting a study that aims to answer whether cats have the same accents as their owners.

From recordings of animals across the country, the researchers hope to work out whether cats have a regional accent – so does a north Swedish cat’s miaow sound the same as one from the south of Sweden?

Part of a larger project looking at cats as a whole and trying to understand kitty communication and discover whether felines respond differently depending on how they are spoken to, the study is being run by Susanne Schötz, who has three cats of her own.

She says that while cats only need to use visual and vocal signals to communicate with humans, and that their miaows developed as a way to converse with us. In fact, when a cat and their human have been together for a while, the way they converse becomes distinctive to their own inner circle.

So what exactly are cats saying to us?

Susanne says: “Many cats and their human companions seem to develop a pidgin language in order to communicate better. We don’t know whether there are similarities in the languages or whether they’re specific to a cat/human pair.”

When people talk to cats, they tend to adopt the gentle baby-esque way of communicating – as if their cats are their kids – where their voice’s pitch rises and falls melodically.

Susanne aims to find out whether a cat’s miaow varies from place to place, and if an owners’ accent changes the miaow pitch and tone too.

One of the tests will be whether the cats being studied recognise a familiar voice based on intonation and speaking style by playing recordings of people speaking in different styles from behind a screen in the animals’ homes. They will then use video footage to see how the cats react, through ear and head movements and changes in posture.

I feel pretty confident that my four Furry Babies know me and my voice, but perhaps that’s just my ingrained sense of our pack pride.

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