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Do Cats Mimic Their Owner's Accent?

Scientists from Sweden are in the process of investigating whether cats mimic its owner's accent.

To find out if cats have accents, researchers from Lund University are collecting sounds of cats that hail from the northern and southern parts of Sweden. The study hypothesizes that cat sounds would vary in melodies and tones depending on where the cats live.

In order to prove their theory, Suzanne Schötz, a phonetics researcher from Lund University gathers data from cats living in Lund, far south of Sweden and Stockholm, which is about 400 miles to the north. The collected data would be compared and analyzed if cats from the south sound different from those in the north.

The study, according to the study authors, would allow an in-depth understanding of feline communication and if they have different responses with regard to how to they are communicated to.

"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," Schötz said.

The researchers want to find out if cats would respond differently for every voice type similar to when humans converse with babies. Most humans talk to cats using a singsong style that is high-pitched and has a greater range of rise and fall compared to a normal conversation.

To find out if there is indeed a difference, the study would include a group where human speech is varied. Researchers will then observe, using a video footage, the responses of the cats and take note of which type of voice would they readily respond to.

"If we can find that cats adopt these melodies, we may be able to help cat owners interpret these signals better," Schötz explained.

The study aims to complement previous studies that tackle cat vocalizations. A 1944 study by a New York psychologist Mildred Moelk, stated that cats have about six different types of sounds to convey different emotions ranging from confidence, anger, friendliness, pain, fear, and dissatisfaction.

Cats are increasingly becoming popular pets of choice, prompting experts to conduct human-cat interaction studies. One particular recently published study suggests that a cat parasite, Toxoplasma gondii can cause impulsive behavior.

Photo: Moyan Brenn | Flickr

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