Do cats in Texas have a southern drawl? Do they respond differently to fellow southerners than they would to a human with a Jersey accent?
Those are the questions Swedish scientists are hoping to answer as they launch a study to determine if cats have accents similar to their humans and if they react differently when they hear humans with a familiar accent.
For the study, researchers from Lund University in the farm town of Lund, Sweden, are studying cats and their owners in that town as well as in the more metropolitan Swedish capital of Stockholm. Swedes from Lund have accents that can be easily distinguished from their city-slicker peers, and researchers are wondering if cats can pick up on the differences. The study is part of a broader effort to better understand feline communication and whether or not they use different meows to communicate different things.
"Many cats and their human companions seem to develop a pidgin language in order to communicate better. We don't know whether there are similarities in the languages or whether they're specific to a cat/human pair," Susanne Schötz, a phonetics student at Lund University and a lead researcher for the study, told National Geographic.
In addition to studying how cats respond to people with similar accents to their owners, Schötz and her team will study how cats react when they are spoken to in a sing-song baby-talk voice as compared to normal speech and inflection.
Schötz told The Guardian she hopes this research will help cat owners interpret their kitty cat's meows.