Here’s how it happens: you move in with someone with a cat. You’re not a “cat person,” and they make your nose a little itchy, but you relent. You don’t expect to love the cat. You don’t expect to rename the cat “Madame Grumpface Von Fluffbutt.” You especially don’t expect to find yourself crouching on the ground, ruffling her fur while cooing “who’s the prettiest girl? Who’s the floofiest kitty? You are! You are!” to her unimpressed stares. What’s making you do this? Why do we talk like this to our pets?
First off, it’s the brain’s natural reaction to seeing something so darn cute. We can’t help but babble when a puppy frolics our way or when a toddler smiles at us from their stroller. Behavioral scientists believe that this is how humans attempt to communicate with listeners who can’t understand them. It grabs their attention and helps them get a feel for the language. Even though Ms. Von Fluffbutt will probably never learn to speak English, she does like the attention she’s getting, no matter how silly you sound while you’re showering her with it.
Studies also show that puppies respond particularly well to baby talk. Dogs are sensitive to tones of voice, but puppies are especially attentive to your high-pitched nonsense talk, which can be used to train them more effectively. This is great news for puppy owners, even though we all know that we’re going to baby talk to them anyway, regardless of functionality.
There you have it. We babble and coo at our pets because we want them to listen, want them to learn, and because biology makes us do weird stuff around cute things. And sometimes it works! Go on, show the world just how good your baby talk can get by sharing it with us on HearMeOut. If you can get some howls, barks, tweets, and meows back, we want to hear that even more.