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.
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.