Susanne Schötz has received a grant from the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg foundation for the project Melody in human–cat communication (Meowsic).
The purpose of the project is to study the communication between humans and domestic cats. Specifically, the research team will investigate how the prosody, including the voice, melody (intonation) and speaking style – in human speech as well as in cat vocalisations – influence the vocal communication.
Study 1 will investigate how cats vary their melody (intonation) in human-directed and cat-directed vocalisations. How is cat prosody varied in different contexts or situations? How do human listeners perceive this intonational variation? The aim is to develop a prosodic typology of cat vocalisations and present the results on a popular scientific website.
Study 2 will apply new methods to examine how cats perceive different prosodic cues in human speech. Do they distinguish between different voices (familiar-unfamiliar, adults-children) and speaking styles (pet-directed, adult-directed), and do they prefer certain intonation patterns?
The project primarily concerns basic research and represents pioneering work within human–cat communication. The results may lead to an improved quality of life for cats and potentially for other pets as well. Understanding the vocal strategies used by humans and cats in human–cat communication will have profound implications for our understanding of how we communicate with our pets in general, and has the potential to improve the relation between animals and humans within several fields, including animal therapy, veterinary medicine, and animal sheltering.
Follow the link to read the daily newspaper Sydsvenskan’s article on Schötz’ research form February 23: http://www.sydsvenskan.se/sverige/snart-vet-forskarnavad-katten-forsoker-saga/