Historians can’t pin down exactly when humans started domesticating dogs and cats—it could be anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 years ago. Either way, dogs and cats have been co-evolving with humans since before recorded history, and their ability to communicate with humans reflects this. Dogs can recognize words like “treat” and “walk,” understand commands, and use vocalization and body language to express their needs. Cats even started meowing solely as a way to communicate with the humans who cared for them.
Cutting-edge technology is bringing us closer than ever to our pets, and taking Doctor Dolittle from fantasy to nonfiction. Researchers are exploring the potential advances in animal communication far beyond speech buttons and sign language, including methods that would allow humans to more accurately understand animals’ feelings. Ranging from using AI to read animals’ body language to using fMRI to track their mental states, humans are trying to speak with their pets. What do you think your pet will say to you?