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Scientists Want to Know If Cats Learn Accents From Their Owners

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Even when it feels like your cat's ignoring you, they may be absorbing more of what you're saying than they let on. At least that's what researchers at Lund University in Sweden suspect, Newsweek reports. In a new study, they'll try to determine whether cats can develop regional accents by listening to their owners.

Phonetics specialists will be looking at cat and human pairs in two distinct parts of the country: Southern Sweden and Stockholm, more than 300 miles north. By analyzing the intonation, voice, and speaking style of human speech that's directed at cats and vice versa over the course of five years, researchers hope to find out whether cats exhibit specific "accents" that differ from region to region. 

We already know that cats meow more as a way of communicating with humans than with each other. Cats and their owners appear to develop a sort of pidgin language based on their separate vocalizations, which is why some scientists suspect that our dialects may be capable of rubbing off on them. The team will also attempt to decode the meaning of meows in different contexts.

Cats wouldn't be the first non-humans to show evidence of having regional accents. A recent study shows that the vocalizations of Caribbean sperm whales are distinct from sperm whales found in different parts of the ocean.

[h/t Newsweek]

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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