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These apps, designed for cats and the people who love them, aim to help cat parents better understand their cats

By: Becky Belzile

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Featured photo courtesy of Tably
MeowTalk: App Designed By Former Alexa Engineer Translates Cat Meows

Ever wonder what your cat’s really saying to you? If it’s hard to decipher one meow from the next, look no further than MeowTalk, an app designed by former Alexa engineer Javier Sanchez. 

Bellevue, WA-based Sanchez hopes to change the way we interact with our cats by improving communication. His free language decoder app is used on your smartphone to help translate what’s on your cat’s mind. Whether your cat is asking to be fed or showing you affection, the app deciphers meows to give you a better understanding of your cat’s intentions. 

MeowTalk is constantly evolving, developing an algorithm based on user feedback as it learns. As you provide updates, you can even input your cat’s own dialect—cats have unique vocalizations. Just don’t expect a direct translation. Sanchez’s research indicated nine general “meanings” behind the meow, ranging from “let me out!” to “I’m hungry,” “I love you,” and “I’m angry!”

But what does this mean in terms of breaking down the language barrier? Sanchez told GeekWire, “A tool like this can help certain people bond even more with their cats…this could be a real game-changer.” But for many, the greatest benefit will be in knowing whether a meow signifies pain. 

Sanchez’s ultimate goal is a cat translation collar that will directly translate your cat’s meows into a human voice, an objective that makes sense as cats meow almost solely to communicate with humans—cats rarely meow to communicate with each other. “It’s not a language. They don’t share words or communicate with each other,” Sanchez told King5 News. “Cats never meow at each other out in nature.”

All in, it’s an entertaining app that could potentially improve the way people interact with their pets. And it’s only set to improve with human testing and feedback. MeowTalk is available for free on iOS and Android. Currently it sits at a 4.3 rating on Google Play with over 20,000 reviews and has been downloaded by over a million users.

Tably: This Camera App Can Reveal Your Cat’s Mood—And Expose Hidden Feline Pain

Feline okay? It can be hard to tell. Cats are notoriously hard to read. In particular, cat parents know that detecting acute pain in felines can be very difficult—cats, masters of deception, hide their pain very well. This likely had an evolutionary advantage as displaying pain indicates weakness and vulnerability to potential predators, but it can also make caring for cats difficult. As veterinarians attest, all too often, feline pain and illness go unaddressed.

What if we could easily decipher our cat’s facial expressions and physical cues to find out what they’re really feeling? Enter Tably, the new app designed by animal health technology company Sylvester.ai. Tably uses AI learning to assess the facial expressions of cats—including ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and whisker changes—to detect distress, referencing a veterinary-validated pain scale referred to as the “feline grimace scale” or FGS.

Did You Know? Cats rarely meow to communicate with each other. Meowing is usually reserved for communicating with humans.

The scale, developed by a veterinary research team at the University of Calgary, is based on the eye, ear, and whisker positioning of cats. According to the study, “along with the evaluation of behavioural changes, facial expressions have the potential to indicate emotional experiences in animals and provide valuable information regarding internal states.” By deciphering the positioning of cats’ facial expressions, researchers are able to rate pain and vets can treat accordingly.

But even for professionals, visually matching a cat’s face to the FGS images in order to determine a cat’s physical state can prove tricky.  The Tably camera app does it for you,  allowing you to scan your cat’s face for feedback about their physical state. Its learning AI improves with use and helps you actively monitor your cat’s health. This is particularly useful for cats who are post-op, cats with chronic health issues, and even cats nearing the end of life. 

To use Tably, simply open the app and hover the screen over your cat’s face. This allows Tably to take several photos at once to decipher your cat’s expression. Then their algorithm compares the images to the Feline Grimace Scale to produce a result. When testing the app on their resident feline, Hobbs, Tably began to repeatedly suggest that he was unhappy. After receiving this feedback consistently, Hobbs was taken to a veterinarian and diagnosed with ear mites. A few days after treatment, his results were back to “happy.”

The takeaway: you already have a ton of cat photos on your phone. Now, taking those photos can help you determine if your cat is unhappy. 

Want to give it a try? Tably is available for free on IOS.

By: Becky Belzile

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