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Cat Talk
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I love cats. I’ve had cat companions since I was a very little girl. I’ve had many other pets as well – dogs, birds, turtles, fish, and even some garter snakes (they were really my son’s but they were part of the family), but I seem to have a natural affinity with cats. Maybe it’s because I’m a Leo and was born in the year of the tiger, or maybe it’s because I can relate to their independent and unpredictable natures. Whatever the reason, I love cats.

For years I’ve tried to understand what my various cats have been trying to tell me. I’ve learned certain things – a tail held high means that she is happy, ears pointed back and flat on the head means I need to watch out because she’s angry about something, an arched back and fluffed up tail is a sign of fear, and partially closed eyes or slow blinking is the way my kitty smiles at me.

Some of my cats have communicated with me by pawing at me to let me know they want or need something. Often that means that they want food, but sometimes they want a scratch on the neck or some other form of love. One cat I had, Pandora, warned me of an earthquake moments before it hit by reaching up my leg and patting it, which was a very unusual thing for her to do. Another cat, Chloe, used to lay in the crook of my arm and pat my cheek with her soft paw, purring and smiling. I think she was telling me that she loved me. Amanda used to push her head underneath my hand, letting me know that she wanted to be pet. She also liked to comb my hair with her claws, but that wasn’t quite so nice.

It can be quite challenging to figure out what my cats are saying to me when they meow. I’ve always talked to my cats, both in English and in cat, mimicking their meows as best I can. Of course I’m not quite sure what I’m saying to them, if anything at all. I do know that they are talking to me though, because apparently adult cats only meow to people, not to each other. There are definitely different vocal intonations to a cat’s meows, as well as different volumes, and I’m sure that each has some subtle (or not so subtle) meaning. Every cat seems to have their own voice. Chloe had a somewhat gravely voice and often sounded as if she was whining when in fact she was just fine. Amanda had a higher voice and would often “double meow” – a lyrical little “meow-meow” with a question mark at the end that was so sweet.

I now share two cats with my partner – sister and brother Shasta and Sebastian, and my current focus is learning to speak to and with them. Having lived with them for almost four years, I’m now able to distinguish between their voices most of the time. Once in a while they will fool me.

Sebastian talks to me a little, but Shasta is the real talker. It started one day when I sneezed. Shasta looked over at me and did this funny little chatter, like a cat does when it sees a bird. This happened over and over, every time she was around me when I’d sneeze, cough, or clear my throat. I started chattering back to her, and soon we were having daily morning conversations as I sat eating my breakfast.

And so it goes, chatting with my kitties, learning more and more with each conversation. I don’t know if I’ll ever become fluent in cat, but I know that I’ll keep trying.


Elyse– this is a fascinating take on cats. I just got done writing about one in an email to several cat friends. I’m at Cape Cod with a writer friend, Pam, the two of us in her big house with her cat, Finny. Finny has been with us for the past maybe six or eight summers here (my typical stay is 2 weeks) and meows in the morning as I get up for her breakfast. Fine. However, Thursday night, when we arrived, as well as all day yesterday, Friday, Finny just meowed loudly all day, roaming around, seemingly outraged at something. I thought, oh, my, how can I endure two weeks of this cat almost screaming in anger from one room to another. “Meow! MEOW! ME-OOOOW!!” Then this morning, she was quiet, back to her usual quiet self. Interpret that, if you can. Whatever, I am grateful. Pam said she’s never made that kind of transition (from Cambridge where she lives with Pam) before. Odd!

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