find a DOG
find a CAT

Study Asks: What Are Cats Even Meowing About?

Research investigates what your cat’s mew, rawr — even that open-mouthed, barely audible cat-whisper thing — means.

Written by
"So then I said, 'Karen, you really need to take more naps.'" fantom_rd/iStock/Thinkstock

If you’ve wanted to know your cat’s motivations for some behavior — say, running out of the room at top speed for no apparent reason — meows might hold clues to what’s inside those mysterious minds.

Scholar Susanne Schötz has begun a five-year study called “Meowsic” to find how cats communicate with people via meows, the Washington Post reports. In addition, she thinks the results could help people use similar intonations to speak to cats.

Susanne Schötz is on a five-year mission to see what cats are trying to tell us. Via Meowsic Project

Susanne Schötz is on a five-year mission to see what cats are trying to tell us. Via Meowsic Project

Schötz, an associate professor of phonetics at Lund University in Sweden, has turned acoustic analysis tools typically used for people onto cats. She wants to create a sort of lexicon for cat meows or, “prosodic typology of cat vocalizations,” according to the Meowsic project website.

In particular, she’d like to know how cats use rising and falling intonation to get their points across. She’s working from a list that breaks down meows into categories: closed mouth, open mouth and open tense mouth. The last category features all those super uptight sounds your cat makes when he or she is clearly upset. Each category has sub-types and Schötz has listed what each vocalization could mean.

Schötz records cats to analyze their sounds. Via Meowsic Project

Schötz records cats to analyze their sounds. Via Meowsic Project

Research on cat meows began in earnest in 1944, when Mildred Moelk came up with the original canon of cat sounds: 16 distinct patterns in three categories. Beyond simply meows, she detailed mouth-open, heavy breathing sounds, like hissing and shrieking, the aggressive vocalizations. Others include closed-mouth sounds like purrs and trills, which seem to mean contentedness.

Schötz research takes the next step in analyzing these meows, and we are looking forward to seeing what she finds out so we can figure out what our cats keep trying to tell us.

Cat experts translate meowsEver wonder what your cat is trying to tell you? We asked experts to translate. http://wapo.st/1LGEKVz

Posted by Washington Post on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Article Categories:
Trending

Comments