Who among us doesn’t remember the movie Dr. Doolittle?
I realize I’m showing my age here, but I love the original film with Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley, not to mention the “Push-me-pull-you” that fans of this version will recall. The Eddie Murphy one is fine, but for me, the good doctor who can squeak and squawk with the animals has to be Rex Harrison.
Of course, regardless of who you like in the part, the appeal of the character and his remarkable gift remains the same: the ability to talk to animals.
Sure, there are horse whisperers, dog trainers, and that guy in “My cat from hell,” who really seems to know what vexes a moggie, but it’s still not quite the same as learning the language as you would Portuguese or Mandarin.
After weeks of trying to get through to one of my many cats that I didn’t appreciate their claw-to-material approach to one of my favorite chairs, I found myself desperate and looking on the Internet for some help. What I came across was a story on the Daily Mail about an app that translated human speech to kitty talk.
There are two reasons why I downloaded “Human-to-Cat Translator.” 1) It was only $0.99 for the full version; and 2) The lady on the Daily Mail got a bad reaction from her cat, and I was sure I could do much better.
Two minutes later, a fool and her money were parted, as I prepared to go mano-a-gato with one of my cats, Pumpkin.
How it works
Well, here lies the mystery, doesn’t it? Have people spent years studying cats to finally crack their language? Was there a “eureka!” moment when Professor Purrfect Paws was suddenly able to chat to his cat Muesli about subjects ranging from the weather to world politics?
Probably highly doubtful, considering the fact that the app costs less than a dollar, and there was a glaring absence of news on this breakthrough in the Daily Telegraph, CNN and other lofty media outlets.
You are greeted with a screen that almost looks like a cat calculator. The rows of buttons have silhouettes of various creatures and symbols on them, and along the top, you’ll see a red button with arrows on either side.
The arrows scroll you through various moggie options, from “Whiskerz” and “Meowmers” through “Kitty Purry,” “Scruffy,” “Meow Mix” and “Señor Fuzzy.” Choose one of them, then press the red button and record yourself saying something – something you’ve always wanted to say to your cat – like “What have you got against the litter box?” When you’re finished, press the button again, and you’ll get the supposed translation of your words into meows. Each option sounds different.
So once you’ve sat there for a while, talking into your device and marvelling at the noises it sends back, much to the concern of those around you, you can move to the rows of icons on the screen.
Each of the other buttons gives you a pre-recorded cat sound, apart from the four along the bottom. The bird symbol gives you bird chirps; the mouse squeaks like a mouse; the heart will give you all the purrs you crave; and finally the cat skull-and-crossbones offers the most bloodcurdling cat fight, hissing, screeching and all. It won’t take you long to lose all your friends if you keep tapping that last button.
After you’ve familiarized yourself with all the buttons, go and find your cat to see if real conversations are possible. Although … hang on a minute … wouldn’t you also need a cat-to-human translator?
When I tried it
By the time I’d recorded myself over and over, saying ridiculous things like “Would kitty like a drink of water?” and “Please don’t scratch the furniture” in a high-pitched voice I didn’t recognize, my cat Pumpkin was nowhere to be found, and so I turned to Jade – our beautiful Manx moggie with green eyes and claws like a Velociraptor.
From the first button I pushed of the pre-recorded sounds, her ears were pricked up and she was attentive. Encouraged by her interest, I tried a couple of other buttons. Yup, she was definitely wanting to know where this cacophony was coming from. So now I went for the big leap in communication – I recorded “Who’s a pretty kitty then?” and played it back to her. She was visibly startled, and then quite unamused.
Either she understood what I was saying, and thought I was asking her about one of our other cats, thus breeding jealousy and contempt, or she didn’t have a clue, but just found the sound intensely annoying. It was at this stage that I decided to take a break from the app, as the only thing it seemed to prove was that both humans and cats really weren’t keen on it.
This app is fun for about five minutes, and then becomes either boring or downright dangerous, depending on your cat’s demeanor. The creators do state that the app is meant to be fun for you and your pets, so if your pets become distressed or aggressive, just use it to bug your friends instead. And bug them, it will.
Inexpensive. Fun to try. Lots of sound options.
You may drive away your friends and your cats.