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Name: Jonathan
Status: 
Grade: 9-12
Location: NJ
Country: USA
Date: Winter 2012-2013
 

Question:
If one were to adopt a cat, or any domesticated animal for that matter, from birth. During the period, the cat is raise without having any contact with any other cats. If that cat were to confront another cat one day would it know how to speech to it? I ask this because humans learn language through hearing others. Is this the same for all animals as well. Lastly do you believe their are different languages or dialects for each animal?



Replies:
Your question is an exceptionally interesting one.

My answer is pure speculation. I could not find any expert who could comment on it. So, my guess" is that most animals communicate not by vocal tones but by actions. Cats especially communicate with other cats by contact. People who have studied hoards of cats do not find a lot of verbal sounds within the group. For some strange reason, cats seem to use sounds to communicate with humans. My experience with cats is that they seem to "meow" in different tones to people. I seldom observe cats making vocal noises with each other unless they appear to be angry or territorial.

So, I believe there are not different dialects/languages for cats (i.e. Persians do not speak Farsi vs. Amer short hair who speak English).

Remember when we learn a language from the start, we associate words with a picture or action. We do not translate the words.

If a cat confronts another cat, the behavior may be quite primal. I doubt they can understand each other, like "hey dude, where's the food?". Other cat says, "it's in the kitchen in the bowl".

Just an educated and experienced guess since I have had cats for 60 years.

Stephen R. Dunn Ass't Professor of Medicine (ret.) Kimmel Cancer Center & Division of Nephrology Thomas Jefferson University


Dear Jonathan,

That is a very good question. Most animals, including humans use a wide array of not verbal communication mechanisms. Instinct would likely take over in this case and the cat would ‘know’ how to communicate with the other cat. It is unlikely that animals have different dialects that they communicate with. A dog’s bark in the USA is very similar to a dog’s bark in China.

I hope this helps, Regards, Louis M. Huzella, DVM, Diplomate ACVP


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