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Can you decipher kitty chat?

A new gadget from Japanese toy maker Takara--home of the woof-to-word device Bowlingual--reportedly promises to translate your cat's meows into human speech.

Japanese toy maker Takara looks set to herald a new age of communication between humans and felines with a device that converts a cat's meows into human speech.

The Meowlingual, a gadget that promises to give cat owners Doctor Dolittle-like powers of discerning their pets' emotions, will be launched in Japan this November, a Takara spokeswoman told newswire AFP.

The announcement comes a year after the company introduced a similar device--Bowlingual--which translates a dog's woofs into words through voice-pattern recognition.

Bowlingual consists of a wireless microphone that is attached to the dog's collar and a terminal that analyzes and matches each bark with a set of preprogrammed phrases. The device detects feelings--including happiness, frustration and sadness--and displays the associated expressions on the terminal's liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen.

Meowlingual is expected to work in a similar fashion, although it will cost half the price of its canine predecessor.

The cat language-translator device has a price of 8,800 yen ($75), significantly less than the 14,800 yen ($120) that dog owners pay for Bowlingual, according to the AFP report.

Despite the price, Takara said demand for Bowlingual has outstripped supply, with more than 300,000 units being sold in the six months since its launch last September. Since then, the device has been released in South Korea and is now geared for a U.S. debut next month.

The toy maker hopes to equal this success and aims to achieve the same sales tally for the Meowlingual by 2004, according to the report.

"We do not have an immediate plan to sell the product (the Meowlingual) overseas, but this could be a possibility," the Takara spokeswoman was quoted as saying.