Even when it feels like your cat's ignoring you, they may be absorbing more of what you're saying than they let on. At least that's what researchers at Lund University in Sweden suspect, Newsweek reports. In a new study, they'll try to determine whether cats can develop regional accents by listening to their owners.
Phonetics specialists will be looking at cat and human pairs in two distinct parts of the country: Southern Sweden and Stockholm, more than 300 miles north. By analyzing the intonation, voice, and speaking style of human speech that's directed at cats and vice versa over the course of five years, researchers hope to find out whether cats exhibit specific "accents" that differ from region to region.
We already know that cats meow more as a way of communicating with humans than with each other. Cats and their owners appear to develop a sort of pidgin language based on their separate vocalizations, which is why some scientists suspect that our dialects may be capable of rubbing off on them. The team will also attempt to decode the meaning of meows in different contexts.
Cats wouldn't be the first non-humans to show evidence of having regional accents. A recent study shows that the vocalizations of Caribbean sperm whales are distinct from sperm whales found in different parts of the ocean.