Faced with the adoration they are given, cats have the annoying tendency to be very (very) not very expressive. But are they really? A study published on Animal Cognition and highlighted by ScienceAlert denies any form of ignorance. On the contrary, the owners would be the little darlings of their four-legged animals. Luck!
In a series of experiments carried out on sixteen domestic cats, the research team showed that felines know their master’s voice and behave differently when he speaks to them. To reach this conclusion, the scientists played various audio recordings to each animal, first coming from interactions with its handler. In the following recording, the owner repeated the same speech, but this time adopting a tone intended for a human. Finally, a stranger repeated the words and imitated the master’s intonation.
The results are unanimous: cats distinguish between a speech intended for humans and that which is addressed specifically to them. At the sound of a familiar voice, many froze, wagging their tails from side to side. Others blinked, moved their ears, stopped grooming, or even meowed back, but only when the words were spoken in a register reserved for a small furry ball. In contrast, when a stranger spoke the same way, the animal showed no interest, just going about its business.
The observation therefore suggests that domestic cats that are not accustomed to being in the presence of strangers have only learned to decipher the nuances of their master’s speech. “It underlines the importance of the individual relationships that we have with these animals”specifies the authors and the author of the study.
A special feline language?
Work published in Scientific Reports in 2017 and Animal Cognition in 2018 revealed that an owner more easily attracted the attention of his pet when he used a particular language of the type “Who is the prettiest?”. A high-pitched voice, short and repetitive sentences, usually used in the presence of young children, are also required to coax our four-legged friends. In order to arouse even more affection, some will also like to put more air in their voice. But beware of the inconveniences: the postilions are not pleasant for anyone.
Although the authors claim that the results bode well for understanding our pets, the study presented has limitations in view of its small panel: all the felines had a similar lifestyle, living in apartments and with a unique owner. Other research will be carried out with different profiles, particularly in households where the cat has several masters. War will soon be declared on who is the darling of the household darling.
In the meantime, keep being gaga with your cat: that’s how he understands you best.