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Cats develop a secret language of meows with their owners, proving they're going to take over the world

Cats develop a secret language to elicit certain responses from their owners

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Do you know what your cat is trying to say to you? Sometimes they make it obvious. Tik Tok user @iketommy caught his cat asking him this question before initiating normal cat sound mode, and needless to say, it went viral.

A photo of a white and brown cat meowing

This isn’t the first time that a “talking” cat has gotten the interwebs of social media hung up. In 2019, Gambino sent the world into a tizzy with his sweet Southern charmed greeting to his owner.

According to The Cut, your cat is trying to talk to you and it is more complicated than “Feed me now.”

Cats and their humans develop a secret language of meows. Cats don’t really meow to communicate with other cats, John Bradshaw a University of Bristol anthrozoologist and author said, which is a pretty surprising little cat-fact.

But in his observations of feral cats, he said, “you get a meow about once every hundred hours. They’re very silent.” And yet domesticated cats, as you know if you’ve got one, will often meow their little heads off, all day (and sometimes night) long.

“People think of it as an absolutely classic cat behavior … but it’s something they’ve learned to do to get our attention,” Bradshaw said. “It’s really something they’ve adopted as a way of communicating with humans.”

As such, there’s not exactly a universal cat language when it comes to meows. Rather, as Bradshaw writes in his book, “a secret code of meows … develops between each cat and its owner, unique to that cat alone and meaning little to outsiders.”

This was demonstrated in a 2003 study by Cornell researchers, documented in Bradshaw’s book, in which they recorded meows from 12 cats in five everyday scenarios. They then played those recordings to pet owners and found that only the owners could correctly decipher the scenario in which the meow was recorded. So cat owners can tell with some accuracy what message their cat is trying to get across via its meows, whether it’s "Feed me" or "Love me" or whatever else, but “each meow is an arbitrary, learned, attention-seeking sound rather than some universal cat-human ‘language,’” Bradshaw writes.

Learn the language of cats. It turns out, they have a lot to say but only the attuned can truly hear.

Related: The world's worst cat is my spirit animal

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