Best Friends Blog

Funny talk

“Dere’s my widdle dahling. Wot you bin doing? Such a sweeetie!”

Don’t laugh or screw up your face in contempt. Most of us do it at one time or other (some of us, all the time). The habit of talking funny and adopting cute (or weird) voices to converse with our animals is remarkably universal.

From the cry of a legendary English dog training guru, when announcing walk time for her dogs in that high-pitched screech (“Walkies!”), to your own humble version of a funny voice, it just seems natural to adopt the most unusual intonations, pronunciations, vocalizations — call them what you will — when addressing our best friends.

The habit seems particularly prevalent when we converse with dogs, perhaps especially with smaller dogs, though I can think of at least one example with a Great Dane. “What duz my big boy want now? A luvvley bellee ruub … Oooh, izn’t dat nice!” You get the idea.

But cat people are by no means immune to the condition. I count myself a cat person and confess to using numerous alternatives to one of my cat’s names when trying to attract his attention. “Pusspusspuss,” “Tchk, tchk” and an impossible-to-spell squeaking sound made by sucking short bursts of air through my lips are some of my favorites.

And you should hear my wife when she’s away and asks me to hold the phone up to the ear of one of our dogs or cats so she can connect with them from afar!

Searching around for a reason for this strange but very common behavior, I can only conclude that it is meaningful, even endowed with significance. We do it sparingly with our own species, relegating it to very small babies and occasionally spouses or other loved ones.

But that doesn’t really seem the same. There is something about the relationship we have with our pets that brings out this completely different mode of communication in us. I believe it has something to do with their innocence and the dependent relationship between us. Innocence is a quality we humans lose very early in life. By the time we reach the “terrible twos,” it has substantially gone, appearing only fleetingly.

Yet, contact with innocence is of immense value to us. It dissolves our worries and stress. It can feel like the only quality that has true value in our troubled and care-laden lives. The experience of innocence raises us up and takes us to a different, much better place.

What an extraordinary gift from our animals! Is there any value that is greater?


Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Ksnively

    my animals are my babies,they are my family.I know when i talk cutesy to them they act and feel good,like they really enjoy my voice.I believe animals have souls like us. Many people disagree.But when i look into their eyes i see truth and love like no other!

  • Anne F.

    Years ago I had a friend visiting from Finland.  I introduced him to my pet bunny. This 25 year old mature individual was instantly down on the floor cooing in Finnish to my little furry beastie. Afterwards he said it was the first time he had spoken in his native tongue for weeks but it just came out.  It truly is a universal reaction!

  • Bubbie

    this is not baby talk, it is interpreting because our pets speak a different language.  i’m very good at it.

  • Awesome Article!

  • Katherine S. Harris

    I’m home all day with my 2 dogs and 2 cats so I talk to them constantly as I go thru my chores. As you mentioned I have my special voices, noises, etc that they respond to and over time, they’ve gotten so they talk back to me. They make they’re own strange noises, groans, yips, meows also with inflections just as I do. They also come to me and make direct eye contact if it’s something urgent that they want and a brief comment is added to let me know exactly what it is. After years of raising pets, you learn what they’re saying and you know exactly what they want. Of course if I’m wrong, the request is repeated even louder. People that own pets that never bother to really get to know the animal personally are missing out on the greatest gift pets have to offer: themselves.

  • I actually think there is a practical aspect to adopting a unique tone with your pets.  They are surrounded by humans talking all the time, but which one to pay attention to?  Well, using a consistent tone allows them to pay better attention to words directed to them.  For instance, when my wife calls from another room and asks me a question, I can yell “no” without my dogs and cats reacting, because if it’s directed to them I use a different tone to my voice.  I think this improves communication considerably.

  • Becky Dodge

    As well as the innocence and dependent relationship you spoke of in your entry I have always thought that, at least in part, it comes from the fact that with our pets we are totally at ease. With other humans, especially adults and children beyond infancy there is always an awareness that we are being judged. That awareness is not there with our pets and the lack allows us to be totally unguarded so we can indulge in behavior/language that anywhere else would probably lead to ridicule, at the very least.

    • Gregory Castle

      Thanks Becky.  What a really good point.

      • Becky Dodge

        I think that need is there at some level in all of us and it is met mainly through loving contact with our pets or, indeed with any animal we connect with in a positive manner. Even with our spouses/partners there is a small degree of judgement present in the relationships. It is truly only with good loving contact with animals that we can achieve this sort of ease with another being. That is something which is extremely precious.