Have you ever wondered if when your feline friend meows or purrs at you, it’s in a British accent? Or maybe a Southern drawl?
Well, Susanne Schötz wants to find out.
The Swedish researcher has launched a study to determine whether a cat’s meow carries the accent of their human, National Geographic reports.
Ultimately, Schötz, who is a phonetics expert at Lund University in Sweden and owns three cats of her own, is trying to found out how cats communicate with their owners and whether the animals respond differently depending on how they are spoken to.
In one study, cats will be exposed to different kinds of human speech and researchers will record their responses.
“Do they prefer to be spoken to like small children, or do they prefer to be spoken to as an adult? And can they recognize a familiar voice based on intonation and speaking style?” Schötz said.
Early research shows that people seem to have a unique style when speaking to their cats; oftentimes, Schötz said, it is a “higher-than-average pitch” and “the melody of their speech tends to have specific patterns,” similar to a sing-song tone that adults use when speaking to small children.
In a second study, researchers will analyze the melody in the cat vocalizations, to see if they can find patterns in different emotions, in different breeds or in different countries.
“If most cats use similar melodies to say, ‘I’m slightly hungry, I would like a snack now,’ and they also use similar melodies to say, ‘I’m really hungry, I’m starving,’ we can begin to try to understand what they’re saying,” she explained.
“If we can find that cats adopt these melodies,” she added, “we may be able to help cat owners interpret these signals better.”