Giving cats a voice

As we’ve already discussed here in our Auckland Kennels & Cattery blog, we all want to do our best to make sure our feline charges are happy becuse we are slightly crazy, devoted cat lovers. In order to do that well though, we need to understand what our cats are trying to tell us.

Frustratingly however, the secret language of cats can sometimes be a bit puzzling for us mere humans. But maybe for not much longer. A rather clever engineer has recently created an app that he claims can solve the mystery of what cats are trying to communicate.

Cat owners who download the app Meowtalk are able to record their cat’s meows and then get a translation of the sound.

You say what?

MeowTalk is said to work by translating your cat’s ‘meow’ to words humans can understand.

The developer has explained that the app it not a full language translator, because unlike their two-legged servants, cats do not share a language.

Adults cats do not meow to other cats, only to humans. Cats communicate with each other through scent, body language, facial expression and touch. They don’t share ‘words’ with each other.

understanding your cat

Humans on call

However, cats have worked out that humans are a bit thick and that they cannot communicate with us the way they do with cats, which is why they meow at us. They have developed different meows depending on whether they want food or attention, are in pain, happy or grumpy. They’ve worked out that meows get their owners to do what they want.

This is good system in principle, but as I’ve mentioned, many of us are just not up to the high standards many of our cats demand of us. The language of cats seems beyond us. Enter MeowTalk.

Learning the lingo

The Meowtalk app apparently analyses cat sounds to see if it can work out the meaning behind them. For the app to work, it first needs to train itself by capturing five to 10 sounds. By recording and labelling sounds, the artificial intelligence and machine-learning software can learn to understand each individual cat’s voice – the more the app is used, the more accurate it can become.

As each yowl and meow is recorded, the app suggests a translation, and you can tell the app whether you think that was what the cat meant, or choose from a dropdown of other suggestions. There are 12 translations to choose from  – as well as ‘Unknown’ and ‘Other’ – such as ‘Feed me!’, ‘Let me out’, I’m in pain’ and ‘Hello’, and the default translation, ‘I’m in love’.

Over time the app is supposed to get better at matching the cat talk to previous sounds that you have translated. Of course, this means you are adding what you think the sounds mean to the app, so to avoid skewing the results. To counter that, Meowtalk is building a database of cat sounds from other users with their suggested meanings, so the app should grow more accurate over time.

Better cat care

Sanchez, the developer, reckons Meowtalk can help people bond even more with their cats, or cat carers could use it to translate your cat’s cries while they are looking after them. You’ll get piece of mind knowing they will at least know what you think your cat is saying.

We understand cats

Luckily for the cats in our care, they already have a voice. All our staff are already very good at talking cat and can read cat body talk as well as what the feline eyes, ears, tail, fur, and vocalisations are saying. Cats can be very good at hiding illness and pain, but our staff are well-trained in how to recognise the signs and symptoms of contentment, distress, pain and disease. If your cat gets uncomfortable or unwell while staying with us, you can rest assured they will receive prompt veterinary treatment should they need it.

Our cat hotel is a semi-communal, large airy space where cats feel safe and comfortable – lots of climbing space, baskets, sheepskins and toys. If you’re looking for a safe and secure environment for your cat where you know your cat will be listened to and well looked after, call 09 299 7415. Inspections are welcome between 10.00am and 4.00pm each day.