Do You Use ‘Baby Talk’ With Your Cat?

A few years ago when Bud was a bit more of a daredevil than he is now, I was sitting on my balcony on a warm summer night when the little dumbass squeezed through the railing bars and did a circuit of the balcony outside the rail — with only three or four inches of ledge between him and a potentially brutal fall onto the concrete below.

“Bud!” I said, feeling my own fear of heights bubble up as I watched him take his precarious stroll.

He ignored me.

“Bud!” I said again, loud enough to make sure he heard me but not so loud as to startle him and cause him to fall. “Bud! I’m talking to you! Get back over here right now!”

He paid me no mind. I stood up, put my hands on the railing and looked down at him.

“Buddy, get back here now! I’m not gonna say it again!”

At that point I realized there was a couple about my age, probably returning from the bars, drunk-walking toward the back door of the building and watching me have a furious one-sided discussion with my cat. They seemed to think it was hilarious, not only because I was speaking to my cat, but also because I was talking to the little stinker like he was a person.

I don’t baby talk with Buddy, and I’ve noticed my brother doesn’t baby talk his dog, Cosmo.

Sure I’ll speak to Bud warmly and encourage him when he’s clearly frightened of something. (Which is very rare, of course, because he’s such a fearless and brave tiger!) But it isn’t baby talk, and 95 percent of the time I speak to little man as if he’s, well, a little man.

It turns out I may be “doing it wrong,” at least according to some veterinarians and animal behaviorists who say baby talk is a good way to communicate with pets. Animal behaviorists call it “pet-directed speech,” and although the studies so far have been limited, they seem to suggest cats (and dogs) are more likely to respond to it than typical speech in normal registers and cadences. (A study published in the journal Animal Cognition earlier this year found horses respond well to “baby talk” too.)

Despite that, I just can’t bring myself to do it. There are certain standards we must uphold in this home, and besides, I’m pretty sure Bud would paw-smack me if one day I scratched his head and started saying “Who’s a good widdle boy? Is that you? Are you the good widdle boy? Yes you are! Yes you — OUCH! What the hell, dude? Why’d you do that?”

Do you “baby talk” to your pets?

person wearing apron holding orange tabby cat
“Who’s a cute widdle fluffy wuffy?” Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

20 thoughts on “Do You Use ‘Baby Talk’ With Your Cat?”

  1. I think I talk to Frank as if he’s somewhere between 4 and 6: “hey, little guy” if he’s being sweet, “hey, big guy” if he’s acting tough, “hey, dude, stop it” if he’s being a pain in the ass, and “you little monster (or worse)” if he bites me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A cat of Frank’s prestige and handsomeness certainly deserves the honorific “Big Guy,” and I can sympathize with the “little monster” bit thanks to Bud’s occasional outbursts. Such is the cost of the privilege of sharing our homes with such magnificent miniature tigers.

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  2. We do speak to Tux as though he’s a small child in soft high pitched voices. He responds well to that. I think it is sort of reflexive, since he is basically a feline toddler with advanced intelligence!

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    1. Super advanced intelligence, indeed. Cats know how to teleport, after all. All jokes aside, I was proud of how patient and understanding Bud was over Christmas when my nieces were over. Even though he’s younger than the older of my nieces, he instinctively understands her and her sister are young humans who are still learning. Cats definitely understand more than we generally realize.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Bella has a variety of names that sound “baby” like Belaboo, bellaboobah, etc, but they are not said with “goo-goo” verbalisations. The names are just stuff that we make up based on her name. She is also known as “Killer Queen” ( after the band Queens famous track) for her killing of rodents…. She is a vital and primary important member of our family team with a value beyond any measure but not a baby human ( she is waaaaaaaaaaaaay better than that!!!)

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    1. Hi John! Re: goo-goo verbalisations. I don’t do those but one of my cats was named Goo-Goo! AKA Goo-Goo dolly and Googee. She was a very special cat and I miss her a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My son was hilarious with our last elderly dog since passed away . He was surprised to see him bring in a large live insect one day. Then he was cooing at him saying “oh you got a bug , eating bugs now huh!l” No one is immune to baby talk with fur babies!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t talk baby talk but I do talk to my Goobi as a child. I never ignor his plaintive pleas for reassurance and always acknowledge his presence. Yes, as if he were my child, just not a baby.

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    1. Yes, it’s very important that we’re always responsive when they need help or reassurance. 🙂 For Bud it’s always his inexplicable need to dig his claws into the screen door and get stuck for the 1,274th time, followed by baby-like cries for assistance.

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  5. Hello there! Gotta say I have been ;Baby Talking” to cats for almost 60 years…..Yeah I’m as old as dirt! I can tell you cats understand us better than we know. However, they are also how shall wee say, stubborn little furballs….so baby talk works….they sorta forget how stubborn they are & like the ‘chat’ & next thing Kitty is being good?? Go figure???
    Stop by BellaDharma an BellaSita’s Purrfect Pad anytime & hang out…been her since 2012…lots of archives if you want to browse. (I am just the Typist; my cats are the Authors)
    Peace BellaSita Mum aka Sherri-Ellen & **purrss** BellaDharma

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Sherri-Ellen! I checked out your site and you are a very devoted cat mom indeed. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum…never was allowed to have pets as a kid, I was too busy to even think about adopting in my 20s, so Buddy is my first-ever pet and I love the little guy more than I thought would be possible. Every day is an education in the feline ways.

      Thanks for finding us and I’ll be sure to check in on your site regularly as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t “baby talk” per se to my kitties. However, I do use “kitty voice” when I address them. My partner doesn’t have a cat or dog voice and it drives me. I never know if he is speaking to me, someone else, or our animals. I’ve noticed animals, especially cats respond to a higher pitched voice better. They pretty much ignore my human voice.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good point about not distinguishing between talking to the cat or you. You’re right about higher pitch. There have been some studies about that showing how cats respond better to higher pitches, which makes sense since they hear in higher frequencies than we do and are better attuned to them.

      I guess Bud is just used to my voice, so he’s adjusted.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t baby talk my two mini-panthers much. However, I have books on speaking French and Welsh to cats, the latter full of imperative verbs (Stop! Get down!). Perhaps French cats are more sophisticated.

    Are you familiar with Henri, the existential cat, on YouTube? No baby talk for him

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not familiar with Henri but I’ll look him up. How do your kitties respond to Welsh and French? Do they react differently than to plain English?

      No baby talk for Buddy, but I have been practicing my Sam Elliot voice with him haha.

      Liked by 1 person

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