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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schötz + Giveaway (US/Can)

The Secret Language of Cats
Susanne Schötz
from Hanover Square // Harlequin

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 Schötz 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, Schötz 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.


It is a fair question. Since this book presents the sounds that cats use in their vocal communication with other cats as well as with us humans and describes them care¬fully, and even uses sound and video to clarify, the language of cats is actually not a secret anymore, right? And yet, even after my numerous studies of cat sounds, something still seems to elude me, and remains hidden, like a secret. And is not this last little bit of mystery the reason that we continue to investigate, the reason that we want to comprehend everything a little bit more precisely? For me, at least, the answer is a resounding yes.

Cats express themselves vocally differently than humans. We have to begin by observing their behavior closely so that we can learn their vocal communicative signals and come to understand them as complete beings. We have to crack their “secret code.”

We begin by examining the assumption that everyone understands a word in the same way, that everyone defines words identically. But is that really the case? Take the word yes. Does yes always mean yes? Or is it sometimes actually more of a yeah? Or even occasionally a no? The meaning of a word, what the speaker intends when they say something, always depends on the context, as well as on the speaker’s emotional condition or attitude. It’s a good thing that if a word produced by a human speaker is unclear, you can always ask for clarification.

What about foreign languages? Well, if I do not know any Hungarian, for example, I can rely on Hungarian dictionaries and on translations. Hungarian has a grammar, and there are books about the Hungarian language which I can rely on for help. I can take language courses at a community college or a university. I can practice with native speakers.

It is different with cat language. Even if I think that I understand a cat sound correctly and can imitate it somewhat accurately, I can never be 100 percent sure that I have interpreted it correctly, whether I am using it in the right context, and how I might interpret it or even try to translate it into a human language. Cats do not have a language that works like a human language.

Even so, we can approach the vocal language of cats and learn to understand it better. The sounds of animals belong to a kind of communication that depends on the situation or context in which the sounds are uttered. You have to study the circumstances of those utterances very closely before you can begin to recognize patterns, let alone a system. In order to study cat sounds more systematically, we can play our cats prerecorded clips of cat sounds and study their reactions very closely. We can analyze the results and interpret the reasons that a specific sound produces a specific reaction.

These are exactly the kinds of studies I conducted with my cats. Although I am pretty sure that the trilling or cooing with which my cat Kompis greets me every morning is a form of friendly hello, I will never be able to enter his vocalization into a dictionary, as cat language does not have words and sentences with a grammar, with structural rules for how to compose words, phrases and sentences—and what these units mean—as is familiar to us from human language.

What does help, if we want to understand the language of cats, is paying attention to the context in which a cat expresses itself. While human languages ascribe identical or similar meanings to different words (a table is called Tisch in German, bord in Swedish and zhuozi in Mandarin Chinese), cat sounds always seem to be tightly bound to specific situations. One-to-one translation from human language to cat language and vice versa are therefore impossible. We cannot look something up in Cat. One more reason, then, that the language of cats remains a secret.


Books à la Mode is giving away
a print copy of The Secret Language of Cats—yay!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
Have you ever had or do you currently have a cat? Tell him about him or her!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Susanne and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

I have never owned a cat. I grew up loving them, but sadly discovered by age 9 that I was severely allergic. It explained why I would sneeze uncontrollably and why my eyes would puff up and itch like crazy whenever I was around them!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Hanover Square Press!
Giveaway ends November 21st at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!