Baby talk with cats How it works.

“Night-night, baby!” Baby talk is effective when communicating with cats. Why?
“Night-night, baby!” Baby talk is effective when communicating with cats. Why?
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A study published in 2022 decided that baby talk with domestic cats worked in that cats respond to it when spoken by the caregiver but not a stranger. The study hints at the fact that cats like to hear baby talk and are very receptive to it but this is incorrect.

The reason why cat caregivers – particularly moms 😻 – communicate with their cats in baby talk is because they relate to their cat as a baby or more accurately a toddler. It is instinctive for the woman. And justifiably so. It is nice to see. Provided the owner understands that they are talking to a cat and not a toddler 🙀. It is important to respect the cat as a cat as it ensures proper expectations.

And when mom’s use baby talk it will automatically be a very gentle, loving form of communication. It is a gentle sound. A kind sound. And it is followed by kind behavior. Cats connect the baby talk with good things happening. And so, they respond positively to baby talk.

It has to be from the cats caregiver as she makes the sound in her way. It is nuanced. Cats pick up these nuances and can tell if another person made the sound. They will only respond to their caregiver or another person who is known to be friendly. It is once again an association between this form of human vocalisation and good things about to happen.

That is why baby talk works when communicating with cats. It is not magic. Men are less likely to talk to their cat in baby talk. I wonder if any man does but they might.

But men will employ soft tones and a mellow voice to the same effect. Their cat links the sound to their owner and to good things. Like I said it’s not about baby talk per se which is super effective. Any gentle sound will do as long as it is linked to pleasant experiences from a good cat caregiver.

Clearly the human voice can’t be loud and aggressive as that would nullify the desired effect: to create a calming and loving environment. Cats are very responsive to sounds. They can read aggressive sounds and aggressive body language.

That’s another point. Accompanying baby talk the female caregiver will be showing friendly body language which the cat understands and reads. The friendliness comes as a package: visuals and sounds.

In this charming video from Geobeats we see a woman adopting a cat who has been in an animal testing setting for four years. She uses baby talk all the time. She is very loving and her cat flowers into a loving companion in response.

Study referred to: de Mouzon, C., Gonthier, M. & Leboucher, G. Discrimination of cat-directed speech from human-directed speech in a population of indoor companion cats (Felis catus). Anim Cogn 26, 611–619 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-022-01674-w

RELATED: Bimodal communication with cats (video)

Study summary courtesy Bing’s Copilot

In a recent study, researchers found that cats can distinguish between speech directed at them and speech directed at adult humans. Here are the key findings:

  1. Cat-Directed Speech (CDS): When their owners spoke to them using a cat-directed tone (similar to how we might use a “baby voice”), cats showed increased behavior intensity. This included behaviors like turning their ears toward the speaker, increased movement, and pupil dilation.
  2. Adult-Directed Speech (ADS): When their owners spoke in a regular adult-directed tone, cats did not exhibit the same heightened response. However, they still recognized their owner’s voice.
  3. Stranger’s Voice: Cats did not differentiate between ADS and CDS when the voice came from a stranger. In other words, they didn’t react differently to a stranger’s tone.
  4. Human–Cat Relationship: These findings suggest that cats can discriminate their owner’s voice from that of a stranger, especially when the owner uses a cat-directed tone. This highlights the importance of one-on-one relationships for cats and sheds light on how communication develops in human–cat dyads.

In summary, cats pay attention to their owners’ voices, especially when spoken to in a cat-directed tone. This study adds to the evidence that cats form strong bonds with their human companions. 🐱❤️🗣️

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