You and your cat are total besties who tell each other everything. You’ve got all the cat lover gifts a gal could want, and sometimes you might even wonder if you actually are a cat. There’s no doubt you share a bond that goes beyond cuddling: You two understand each other! And while we know that cats use vocal communication exclusively with humans, the intricacies of their “speech” is murky at best. A new project out of Lund University in Sweden may change that as researchers aim to better understand the science of just how humans and cats communicate.
The study, led by researcher Susanne Schotz, Associate Professor of Phonetics, will take place over the course of five years, concluding in 2021. She and her team will work with between 30 and 50 cats and owners to try and understand the effects of intonation, dialect, accents and speaking styles in cat and human vocal communication.
Schotz believes that cats use different melodies and pitches in their meows to communicate varying emotions, needs and wants. She also thinks cats from specific regions have specific accents in their meows. She and her team will record the cats’ vocalizations in varying settings and circumstances and analyze them to find patterns in emotions, breeds and locations.
Additionally, the researchers will record the humans speaking to their cats; the team will play back these recordings to the cats to analyze their responses. Do cats prefer “baby talk,” or are they more responsive when talked to like an adult human?
“The results may have profound implications for how we communicate with cats in our homes, in care facilities, animal hospitals and shelters,” Schotz says. We’re excited to see what kind of new conclusions this study will bring, though we’re pretty sure that plaintive meow we get in our ear every morning at 5am means “feed me now,” no further research required.