Siamese Cats Acquired Their Voice From Thai People

This a brand new theory in the cat world. PoC is unique for out-of-the-box thinking and innovation 😉 It is a bit tongue-in-check and a bit of fun with a tiny smidgen of seriousness underneath.

Siamese Cat Voice

Siamese Cat Voice. Main photo by 5chw4r7z. Apologies for losing the names and links of the other two photographers.

We all know that Siamese cats have unique voices. It is quite raucous and loud. The classic meow has turned into a forceful yowl. There is a cute but hard edge to the tone. They are talkative and loyal cats who like to converse with their human companions. This is one of their great attractions.

We also know that domestic cats learn from observation – this is one example. Over thousands of years, is it beyond the bounds of possibility that the Siamese cat acquired its special voice by listening to his human companions; the people of Thailand, formerly Siam? Has human behavior rubbed off onto the domestic cat?

Although I created a crazy video to compare the sounds of the Thai language with the voice of the Siamese cat, I have decided not to use it because it may upset some people.

Update: I produced this very short video to compare the voice of a Siamese cat and Thai people. The video replays so you can hear the comparison several times if you wish.

I have this feeling that there are resonances in the sound of the Siamese cat to the sound of the Thai language. On that basis, perhaps cat breeds with a long history in a country have modified their behavior so that it matches the behavior and sounds of the people of the country. This would not be surprising.

Another example is the British Shorthair. Helmi Flick, who is the companion and owner of two British Shorthairs, describes her cats in a way that relates to the character of British people. She says they are reserved. And British Shorthairs are very quiet. It is almost as if she is talking about a British person or the conventional view of a British person.

The Maine Coon is not a good example. This cat  breed has a fairly quiet voice and the American people, in general, are considered to be confident with strong voices. However, perhaps the Maine Coon is an anomaly. The cat is very much an American cat but the history of this cat in America is short compared to the Siamese and the British Shorthair in their respective countries. Also for a large part of the Maine Coon’s time in America she would have heard British and European voices/accents not the classic American one we hear nowadays.

  • Maine Coon in America: 400 years
  • Siamese in Thailand: 1000s of years
  • British Shorthair in Britain: 2000 years, at least

I wonder if there is a connection between the behavior and language of people with the tone of the voice of a cat who has lived in that country for a long time?

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Siamese Cats Acquired Their Voice From Thai People — 10 Comments

  1. I think this is a fantastic article – I love the way you think freely about stuff and just explain it how it is. I tend to agree with you – the old addage of pets being like owners cannot not be true. Any animal adapts to environment so it is impossible that to some extent its not true – i.e.: it must be true to some extent. It’s actually very simple and I think the details you have chosen to steer clear of are most likely totally relevant in the contruct of what we are talking about. Great stuff!

    • Thanks a lot, Marc. I appreciate what you say. It is quite difficult to put your head over the parapet saying things that have never been said before. I got cold feet with the video 😉 I pulled it but I’ll try and make one that shows how the sound of the Thai language can sound a bit like the sound of a Siamese cat.

  2. You know I had to comment on this! Your theory is an idea that I’ve thought about myself before. I was wondering why so many cats from that area have
    such a distinctive voice compared to other cats. So when musing upon that, I wondered if they were basically responding to and imitating the language of the Thai people.

    Many cats from that region do have a unique voice often with quite a range . The sort of nasal quality and the tonality are in a way reminiscent of Thai language.

    And cats have lived in very close association with Thai people for a long time. Probably as you say thousands of years. We certainly have evidence of positive attitude toward cats dating back as much as 700 years and that probably comes from traditions that go much, much farther back. In Thailand we see in the centuries old Tamra Maew poems passed down by monks, admonitions to keep certain kinds of lucky cats in one’s home , to give them good food out of gold and silver dishes, soft cushions to sleep on, and never strike them or yell at them. (Meanwhile in Europe there had been centuries of persecution and killing of cats. )
    Anyway, so there had been a long history of cats and people living together. The cats tend to have a very human-oriented, social kind of personality and part of that is communicating. So it doesn’t seem far fetched they could be imitating the sounds of the human speech.

    An additional factor is that the cats have not just been there a long time, they’ve been relatively isolated on that peninsula which has led to them being genetically very distinct.

    • The sort of nasal quality and the tonality are in a way reminiscent of Thai language..

      Absolutely, and the Siamese has that raucous, slightly nasal quality. Also as you say the Siamese cat is known for liking to be around people. They are considered “loyal”. Over thousands of years it seems almost natural that the Siamese cat would pick up on the sounds of people and copy them. The cat copied the snake to learn to hiss as an effective deterrent. I find my idea very plausible 😉 I would say that off course and I am so pleased you support the idea and have thought along the same lines yourself.

  3. When i owned dogs as pets i remember the common saying in the “Dog owners World”, quote,” Show me the dog and i will tell you about its human owner’s character and psychology”! In other words the pet dog was an exact replica in behaviour of its human owner. If a dog was vicious then blame its human owner and not the poor dog , a result of bad human upbringing. If a human child turns into a bad adult, its normal to blame the parents for bad upbringing, although the same not true for all cases.I presume the same fact applies to cats although cats are not as obedient as dogs and have a mind of their own.Cats mimic the behaviour of their human care-takers and it could be true in the case of the Siamese cats of Thailand.Thailand is the only place in the World where Thai Buddhist monks have bred tigers as tame as dogs and a popular tourist attraction indicating some mystic in training the “Big cats”.

  4. I agree with Marc, an excellent article. I have never thought this before, but from the moment I read the headline my mind has been thinking about it constantly. I think it is very possible that the cats may have been influenced by their environment in this way. In fact natural selection proves that fact. The question is what could have prompted the change? (Not ruling out this hypothesis, in the least…)

    I just learned about how changes take place in species in college. There are genes inside of all of us that lay dormant. When nature decides it’s time to turn them on, they get turned on. In genes we get one half of each gene from each parent. Let’s use the human height gene as an example. If you get one short and one tall from your parents. The dominant allele (which I think is the tall one) will make you taller than average. If you get both tall, you will be really tall, Both short, you will be short. Cats have 38 Chromosome with about 20,000 genes. Humans have 23 with about 30,000 genes. We may not know the gene name or exactly how it works, but we do know one exists. (I looked. I found one paper about pitch in cats. That’s it.)

    My hypothesis is that for some reason they had to compete with a lot of noise to be heard, so they learned to meow louder. This would support the above theory. The markets of Thailand are certainly a noisy place. Do the Thai speak loudly? Or forcefully? I’ve always thought they were peaceful and serene in general. But surely all markets of old were noisy. Could the Thai been a bit noisier then other areas of the world? Could it be they were more cat friendly and other places just shooed them away, whereas Siamese cats were aloud to stay in the markets? I think it’s very possible…

    My other idea is as a defense. Could they have adapted to some predator by learning to meow louder?

    I still like the idea of the voice of the people teaching the Siamese to meow so loudly. It’s romantic and pleasing to the heart. I hope they figure it out. Thanks Michael.

    Speaking of Siamese:
    Syd Barret, co-founder of the Pink Floyd, had a Siamese cat he named Lucifer Sam. He wrote a song about him, it’s my favorite cat song. It’s groovy, check it out:

    • Thanks for the support for this idea. There are two things going on:

      • Loudness
      • Nasal/raucous quality

      Certainly the loudness could have come about, as you say, because market cats would have been confronted with lots of noise. There are still lots of market cats where there is food. I also had this vision of a family speaking loudly at each other at home in an animated way, perhaps arguing. I think Thais can speak loudly at home. There is a certain quality about the Thai voice/language that has a similarity with the Siamese tone of voice, which is unique.

      Siamese cats would have picked this up because they are close to people (described as loyal cats) and it would enhance their chance of being accepted and liked if they copied their human companion. Also a cat will tend to copy their senior family member as a lifestyle because the senior family member knows best. The Thai person is the senior family member.

  5. Update: I finally produced a very short video which compares the voice of a Siamese cat – a pretty typical voice, I believe – with the voices of Thai people. It loops so you can hear it more than once without having to replay it.

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