“Meow” in English, “Miau” in German, “Miao” in Italian, “Mjau” in Swedish…
Swedish scientists are about to start investigating whether cats in different parts of the country have different meows.
Phoenetics researcher Susanne Schötz from Lund University in Sweden, is collecting samples of sounds made by cats from Lund, in Sweden’s far south, and Stockholm, almost 400 miles to the north.
By analysing the melodies and tones of cat vocalisations, she hopes to determine if cat’s meows are different based on where they live!
This video shows the many different ways we say animal sounds. People from different regions have discernible dialects, so the goal is to discover if cats do, too!
The research project is part of a larger study on the way cats communicate with each other and with humans. It will take the form of two studies – in one, the “melody” of cat noises will be analysed, to find if the patterns appear in different cat breeds, or during different emotional states.
The second will involve playing human voices through speakers in the cats’ homes and filming their reactions. The cats will hear differently accented humans and the scientists will study how their responses differ based on the accents.
In an interview with National Geographic, Schötz asked:
Do they prefer to be spoken to like small children, or do they prefer to be spoken to as an adult? And can they recognise a familiar voice based on intonation and speaking style?
“Maybe certain breeds will use certain melodies, or cats living in countries where human speech has certain melodic patterns will vocalize differently,” researcher Susanne Schötz told The Guardian. “If we can find that cats adopt these melodies, we may be able to help cat owners interpret these signals better.”