Are Some Breeds More Talkative Then Others?
Most owners of Siamese and Oriental cats say that these breeds are more talkative than other breeds. Beneath their non-Siamese colouring Orientals are basically Siamese cats, with the modern Siamese being chattier than the older style Siamese.
Siamese cats were well known for talkativeness, but were often simply dismissed as noisy, yowling cats. A longish mew of medium pitch is often emitted soon after the cat is let into a room. This is possibly purely conversational, serving to inform people that it has arrived and is passing the time of day. A far more plaintive sound is made whet cats wish to be let in or out, or to attract attention to themselves if they feel they have been unjustly ignored. Very occasionally, Siamese may be heard ‘speaking' in the middle of a yawn which would appear to signify that they wish others to be made aware of their boredom or fatigue. There is also a lowish stuttering sound, used to make complaints of a rather general nature.
Burmese are likewise given to oral communication but, as a result of having a slightly narrower range of pitch than the Siamese, they rely on variations in length and volume of their mews to provide a large number of different ‘remarks'. In contrast, British Shorthairs tend to show the reserve traditionally attributed to their human counterparts; they vocalise a lot less than the Orientals and their mews, when uttered, are usually brief. A range of pitches can none the less be detected. Sharp sounds generally signify distress or impatience, while those of medium pitch are used for less urgent situations such as polite request for food. A mew emitted whilst purring usually means the animal is contented. Long-haired breeds, on the whole, have rather high-pitched voices, and unless they are extremely upset the volume of their mews is fairly low.
These general findings are repeated again and again - Siamese cats and their relatives are highly talkative while longhaired cats, not only the Persian Longhairs, tend to be quiet.
Can cats talk people talk? Humans have an instinctive need to communicate with fellow humans and to receive communication in return. This drive is often extended to our interaction with non-humans. Just as we look for recognisable sounds when babies learn to talk, we look for recognisable sounds in our cats' "vocabulary". Rather than simply distinguishing a "feed me" miaow from a "let me out please" miaow we try to interpret some of these sounds as words and are remarkably good at self-deception, so if the "I want more grub" noise sounds a bit like "keow" we think our cat is calling us a cow for not giving it a big enough helping in the first place. Cats which "talk" are probably making native feline sounds that sound a little like human words and which, if delivered under the right circumstances, are interpreted as words by beings geared to verbal communication.
Tone of voice probably means much more to a cat than the actual words used, although many owners maintain that their cat understands every word they say. Cats certainly manage intonation and can miaow in a questioning manner, a demanding manner, a forlorn manner or simply as a statement. By observing our response they adopt the various tones of miaow for appropriate circumstances. Puss probably isn't thinking "I want to go out so I shall ask nicely," he is more likely to be thinking "I want to go out and I know that this type of noise usually does the trick."
In their attempts to communicate with us on our own level, some cats put together full "sentences" of noises and pauses. They might simply be inviting us to talk back to them.
It is interesting that such cats string together a series of different sounds into a single burst of communication, with pauses between "words", which an owner likens to a sentence.
Does the ability to communicate with humans provide a clear survival advantage so that good communicators/manipulators survive longer and produce more offspring than poor communicators? Probably not since it is only relatively recently that cats have become house-pets rather than utilitarian animals (rodent controllers). Other researchers admit that it is possible that cats may have co-evolved with humans to better communicate with people, they caution it's easy to jump to conclusions.