A group of animal behaviorologists believe cats may pick up regional “accents” from their owners and that there may even be several dialects of cat in different parts of the same country.
The scientists, from the University of Lund, in Sweden, will spend the next five years recruiting cats from opposite ends of the country to gather information about what their meows mean.
They will investigate how cats vary the melody, or intonation, of their meow when “talking” to other felines and humans.
Led by phonetics researcher Susanne Schotz, the team hopes to discover whether cats respond differently to the sounds their owners use to calm them.
Dr Schotz and her colleagues will play recordings of different human voices to the cats over hidden loudspeakers to see how they react.
And they will watch, in particular, to see whether the cats’ sounds change when they hear a new person speaking.
“If most cats use similar melodies to say, ‘I’m slightly hungry, I would like a snack now,’ and they also use similar melodies to say, ‘I’m really hungry, I’m starving,’ we can try to begin to understand what they’re saying,” she told National Geographic.
“Maybe certain breeds will use certain melodies, or cats living in countries where human speech has certain melodic patterns will vocalise differently. If we can find that cats adopt these melodies we may be able to help cat owners interpret these signals.”
The results may have implications for how people treat cats in animal hospitals, care homes and shelters to put them at ease.
From wolves to dolphins, numerous species of animals are thought to have “accents” when they communicate.
A recent study of wolves revealed they have different “accents” based on their breed and location.
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Researchers at the University of Cambridge pinpointed 21 types of howl to find they corresponded to specific subspecies of wolf, as well as jackals and domestic dogs.
And in November 2013, experts noticed dolphins living in pods in certain areas off the coast of the UK communicating with unique sounds.
Source: Telegraph News