Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majority of pet owners say they understand meaning of animals’ sounds

December 18, 2008


— When your dog says “Woof,” you hear an eager, “Let’s take a walk.” And your cat has a certain entitled meow that you know means, “Put more food in my bowl — now!”

You are not alone.

Sixty-seven percent of pet owners say they understand their animals’ barks, purrs and other sounds, according to an Associated poll released Wednesday. In a finding many parents of teenagers might envy, 62 percent of owners say that when they speak their pets get the message.

“I speak to her on limited subjects and she does the same with me,” said Stephen King, 63, a retired chemist from Kempner, Texas, who claims to understand his dog Dagny’s repertoire of barks signaling anger, eagerness, contentment and other feelings. “Common sense works 98 percent of the time.”

King is among the one-fifth of owners who said in the poll that they and their pets understand each other’s sounds completely.

The survey, conducted by GfK, shows that owners’ affection for their pets goes well beyond speaking their language. Even as a recession forces millions of families to curtail their budgets, just one in seven owners said they’ve been forced to trim spending on their pets in the past year. And more than four in 10 said they still plan to buy holiday gifts for their animals — about the same as last year.

More than seven in 10 women but fewer than six in 10 men say they and their pets understand each other’s efforts at communication. Older and lower-income people are especially likely to say they and their pets get the message.

Dog owners prevail over cat people when it comes to claims of successfully speaking to their animals: Three in 10 dog owners think their pets are baffled when they speak to them, compared with nearly half of cat owners who say the same.

When it comes to communicating in the other direction, cat owners do better. Twenty-five percent say they completely understand those meows, compared with 16 percent of dog owners who claim to be totally fluent in barks.

Some 74 percent of all pet owners have dogs, and 46 percent have cats, according to the poll. Twelve percent of pet owners have fish, 7 percent have birds, and 2 percent or fewer have horses, rabbits, rodents, turtles, lizards or other pets.


Jennifer Forth 9 years, 6 months ago

And here I studied French. What was I thinking?

cthulhu_4_president 9 years, 6 months ago

Classical conditioning explains it all: Animals of all types realize what sounds/sights are present when good/bad things happen to them, and bind those senses to those experiences. Talking in a certain tone of voice accompanied by an action will elicit the same reaction in a pet over time with repeated pairing of the voice and the action: something pet owners do everytime they feed/groom/scold/coddle their pet. Too bad the article couldn't mention the science and facts that explains this phenomena. It's much nicer when it is phrased like a magical occurance, and the article makes 7 out of 10 female pet owners sound like Dr. Doolittle.

jonas_opines 9 years, 6 months ago

Oh absolutely. "Hey! Jerk! Frick'n Feed US!!" That's all my cats ever say.

spammer89 9 years, 6 months ago

Well I know my dog got enough to eat when he rips that loud belch in my face...

Brian Laird 9 years, 6 months ago

The difference between dogs and cats can be neatly summed up by their apparent attitude towards their human caretakers...Dog: "Wow, these people feed me, pet me and take care of me. They must be gods."Cat: "These people feed me, pet me and take care of me. I must be a god."

feeble 9 years, 6 months ago

cthulhu_4_president, Classical conditioning doesn't explain it all, as classical conditioning does not allow for any cognition beyond simple stimulus response. Dogs and cats are highly evolved animals with problem solving skills. I recommend adding works by Nikolaas Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz, or perhaps just E.O. WIlson's Sociobiology to your winter reading list.

Larry Bauerle Jr. 9 years, 6 months ago

The dog and cat I can understand, but the wife still sounds like the teacher off Peanuts. . . Wah Wah Wah.

jengaman 9 years, 6 months ago

"Older and lower-income people are especially likely to say they and their pets get the message."Not sure why I find this statement funny.

Christine Anderson 9 years, 6 months ago

This is no surprise to me. I currently have three kitties(contemplating adopting a fourth) I swear, when they meow, each cat means something different. One meow means feed me, another means pay attention to ME and nothing else, and then there's the "please get off your butt and change our litter box NOW, please."Now, you can laugh at this if you wish. I also believe our pets can understand us. When I was five, our family's calico cat went missing. My Grandma told the dog(yes-the dog) "Lady, go find Calico." A few hours later, Lady returned to the front door, barking like crazy. She kept it up until Grandma followed her outside and to the curb, where a very ill Calico was lying just inside the gutter.Thanks to the dog understanding instructions, Calico got emergency vet attention and survived to the ripe old age of 19.

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