Listen to your Cat
By: Judy Hamontre, AVHS Volunteer
While visiting my friend in her beautiful garden, one of her 3 cats, Paint, jumped onto her lap and nuzzled his head under her elbow. This was his signal for her to rock and comfort him.
My friend is very good with cats because she watches and listens to them and learns the nuances of their communications.
Cats truly have unique ways of “talking” to their people.
Most fascinating is that adult cats only meow to humans. With the exception of young kittens, who meow when they are hungry, cats do not meow to other cats.
They go out of their way to “vocalize” to us because they have learned we are responsive to it. Their meowing can occur in a wide range of pitches and volumes. They may “speak” as a form of greeting, to ask for attention or to be fed.
Older cats suffering from cognitive impairment may meow when they are disoriented. Certain breeds, such as Siamese and Russian Blues may chatter with you all day (and all night).
Cats will “shout” to other animals as well as you if they are frightened or angry. If they growl, hiss or spit, they are telling you and those other animals to stay away. If they yowl which is a long, drawn out meow or howl, they may be in distress.
If male cats have not been neutered, they may yowl when they detect an intact female cat in heat.
Cats also chirp and chatter.
A mother cat may chirp or make a musical, trill-like sound to get her kittens’ attention. She might chirp at you to lead you to her empty food bowl.
You will hear chattering, a series of staccato noises, when your feline friend has spotted a bird or squirrel out the window. New theories indicate chattering is meant to mimic the call of a prey species, confusing it long enough for the predator (the cat) to pounce.
This is why you are helping your cat by putting a cat tree by a window. It allows your cat to engage in his natural, instinctive behaviors which enriches his life.
And of course, cats purr. A purring cat is telling you, “please keep petting me” or “please don’t go away.”
He might also be conveying that he is scared, sick or injured, and he wants you to provide care. In this way purring is a comfort seeking behavior.
Cats meow, growl, hiss, chirp, chatter and purr. They are quite vocal with their communication to you. All you have to do is listen.
But, wait! My friend’s cat did not make a sound when he jumped onto her lap and snuggled under her arm. He communicated with body language.
“Listening” is only half the story. You also have to “look,” which means cat communication will be continued, Call it a cat cliffhanger.
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