Canadians say they’ve created a collar that gives your cat the only thing it lacks: speech. Can such a gadget really work? A look from experts in feline behaviour.
BUZZ. A cat with the ability to speak: this isn’t a Joann Sfar comic book, this is the Canadian Temptations. The kibble maker is making a buzz with a crazy invention: a collar that would give cats the ability to speak. The invention is called Catterbox, a subtle play on words between cat and chatterbox, which means talkative. This collar would be capable of translating the cat’s meows into pre-recorded human words. “We have created a program that detects cat meows and transposes them to a human voice. This technology, embedded in a collar printed in 3D, is connected to our application. You can choose your cat’s new voice,” reads the company’s website. Several videos even allow you to see the collar in action. Here, a cat waving in a relaxed manner:
There, asking the woman feeding him if she washed her hands. The brand of kibble he’s eating is strangely familiar…
Or here, Darth Vader who (still) tastes croquettes (but of which brand can they be?) :
The idea of making our cat friends talk is not new. Last year, some Japanese people had already suggested a meow translator. Not to mention smartphone applications, such as Human-to-Cat, which are supposed to translate what we say into cat language… but are not very effective.
Cat language is not universal.
And this Catterbox necklace, does it really work? According to Educhateur’s feline behaviour experts, nothing is less certain. For them, the verbal language of felines is difficult to translate universally. They write on their Facebook page: “If I make you listen to your cat’s various meows without you being able to see it and without any context, you will have much more difficulty understanding it. Moreover, if it’s someone else’s cat, then it’s even worse. And if I add the differences between the breeds (a Siamese doesn’t meow like a Persian) and then it becomes very complicated.” Aside from some “obvious” meows like cooing (Vrrr), call to play (maROUUINN) or plaintive meowing, most cats form their language based on their owners’ reactions. While most humans react in much the same way, there may be differences between each person, and therefore, each feline. “Take my Kira for example,” says Daniel Filion on the Educhateur page. If you come to my house, you’ll hear her meowing softly as if she’s at the end of her life. In any other cat, this meowing would mean you have to go to the emergency room, but for Kira, it’s a request to get her treat. Why would she do that? Simply because, at the time, I thought that little meow there was “cute” and I rewarded it.”
Not (yet?) marketed, it’s already discredited by many internet users, who see it as a big joke or a marketing stunt. But the real question is another one: deep down, do we really want to know what our chat is telling us?