Cats May Pick up Regional Accents Which Modifies Their Meow

The supposition that a domestic cat picks up the regional dialect of his owner sounds plausible but is currently under investigation in a Swedish study.

We know cats learn through observation and cat owners in different parts of the world describe their cat’s vocalisation in different ways. Perhaps the cats are vocalising differently because of where they are.

Cat melodic patterns
Cat melodic patterns
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For instance in Korea, cats make a sound like ‘yang‘. In Japan cat owners say that cats make a sound like ‘nyan‘. In the UK there is the ‘meow‘ (or miaow). Are cats influenced by their owner’s vocalisations and accent?

One complication, from my standpoint, is that cats make a range of sounds one of which is the meow. I don’t know if the researchers have factored this into their study; they should. My cat does not even meow. He squeaks and barks. He really does. Surely this must complicate matters in such a study? Perhaps not as much as one thinks because the researchers are looking at ‘melodic patterns’ than than ‘cat vocabulary’.

The scientists lead by Susanne Schotz at the University of Lund, Sweden, believe that in a any one country cats may adopt their owner’s dialect or regional differences.

The researchers also hope to find out if cats respond differently to the baby talk that their owners use to communicate with the cat companions.

They will also test if a cat’s vocalisations change when addressed by different people.

The objective is to better understand a cat’s sounds to improve cat caretaking. Susanne believes that it is possible that cats use different ‘melodies’ or “melodic patterns’ as she calls them to say different things.

This is not far fetched research as the vocalisations of wolves, sperm wales and dolphins have been found to vary from area to area.

3 thoughts on “Cats May Pick up Regional Accents Which Modifies Their Meow”

  1. This question strikes me in a fun way. Just this week I told my husband about Zoe changing her meow language at bedtime- to a whisper like mew–mew–? so she wouldn’t wake him up. I taught her this for about 3-months by imitating me!!

    During the daylight hours her MEOW is Unmistakably LOUD.
    Zoe is a gorgeous Calico Maine Coon and follows me to bed, but I retire much later than my husband & we both used to wake him up [between her vocalizations and mine instructing her to speak softly]
    So Yes I would have to believe that a cats language is a very flexible instrument and highly influenced by environmental factors as much as the bonds we make with them.

    Eva_ interesting subject_
    Thanks Michael

  2. I think cats are influenced by their humans. Feral cats hardly ever meow, but house cats can be quite vocal. Mine even talks to himself. I am not making this up. I’ve watched him outside and no one is around, he isn’t even looking at the house, but he is walking around meowing to himself.

    I am a very vocal person– all day long I talk to him, I talk to myself, I talk on the phone and I sing. So Monty learned from me to be very vocal too. He meows to himself in all seasons so it is not just a meow of pain when it’s so cold out there it starts to hurt (we live in Wisconsin, that happens a lot) but also meows expressing I do not know what when the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and the chipmunks are starting to come out of their dens so he can smack them around.

    • I am with you on this, Ruth. I believe that cats are very much influenced by us. There is a lot more to this than people are generally aware of. It is nice to know that Monty meows to himself. I talk to myself all the time… 😉


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