The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schotz
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Have you ever wondered what your cat is saying?
Cats do not meow randomly, nor do they growl or hiss because they have nothing better to do. Cat sounds have a purpose, and they can carry important messages, whether for us or other cats.
Susanne Schotz is hard at work on breaking the cat code. She is a professor at Lund University in Sweden, where a long-standing research program is proving that cats do actually use vocal communication–with each other and with their human caretakers. Understanding the vocal strategies used in human-cat communication will have profound implications for how we communicate with our pets, and has the potential to improve the relationship between animals and humans within several fields, including animal therapy, veterinary medicine and animal sheltering.
In The Secret Language of Cats, Schotz offers a crash course in the phonetic study of cat sounds. She introduces us to the full range of feline vocalizations and explains what they can mean in different situations, and she gives practical tips to help us understand our cats better.
I’ll be honest here and say that the only reason I checked this out from the library was that cute kitten on the cover. I mean, I do have an interest in linguistics (I did major in it in college, after all) and I do love cats, but nonfiction about felines isn’t really my thing. Quite honestly, after I picked this up and remarked on the cuteness of the cover, I should have just put it back down, because this book was some nonsense.
The thing is, if you’ve owned cats for any portion of your life, or been close with anyone who has owned cats, or even just spent like two minutes with a cat one time, nothing in this book will come as a surprise to you. I mean, was it fun to see the various noises a cat can make transcribed using IPA? Sure, I guess. Was I happy that cats weren’t hooked up to any crazy machinery to make this book happen? Yes. But was there a point to this book? Not really.
Because aside from the transcription of cat noises into IPA, the majority of this book is just the author saying, “My cat makes this noise in this context and if you want to go to my blog, you can listen to a recording.” The book is also incredibly repetitive, stating over and over and over and over that cats make hissing and growling noises when they’re mad and chirps and purrs when they’re happy.
Overall, the book feels more like observances that will be common sense to any cat owner mixed with a lot of phonetic observations. I’d hardly call any of this a revelation, and I’d hardly call anything that the author discusses in this book a “language” since it has no known rules. For a nonfiction book, this was at least a rather quick read, but more than anything else, I’m just disappointed.
#ps19: a book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter
Have you read The Secret Language of Cats? What’s the last book that seriously disappointed you? Let’s talk in the comments!
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