Cat: Learning to Speak the Language

Cat: Learning to Speak the Language

Cat language. Slowly, I am learning it.

How a Cat Asks for Help

Today, it happened again. As I was out walking on a quiet urban side street.

An unfamiliar cat shot out of some bushes. She meowed loudly. Rubbed against me. Purred. Rolled on the ground. Leapt up. Then directed a subtle glance at the nearest front walk.

So, I started up the path. And she followed. I knocked on the front door. A dog barked. But the cat didn’t flinch. We heard footsteps, and a man opened the door.

“Is this your cat?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. Although he seemed a bit uncertain why I was asking.

“She came up to me in the street and asked me to knock on the door for her.”

“Ah!” He didn’t frown. Or tilt his head. Or look puzzled in any way. In fact, he seemed to find my words ordinary.

Still, I added an explanation, “I mean, she said it in cat.”

He nodded; he got it. There was no need for me to explain.

Finally, the cat darted into the house.

And I walked on.

Am I unusually dense? Because I spent a lot of years imagining these friendly neighbourhood cats were saying, “Hello you wonderful human. You love cats. And I love you for that.”

Oh, you thought that too?

Don’t worry.

Why a Cat Needs to Converse

I’ve lived with cats for 35 years. And I’m just beginning to speak their language. A language of glances, touches, and telepathy.

Right now, I live with two cats. They differ in age, temperament, and intelligence.

Koi, a big orange tomcat, is 11 years old. He is dignified and introverted. Thus, he is definitely not cuddly. But he loves us fiercely. In his mind, he protects us. He observes us carefully and thoughtfully. He understands many English words.

Keely, a small tortoise shell, is 5 years old. She is imaginative and impulsive. Playful and cuddly. At first, her big brother Koi looked down on her. Too enthusiastic, too careless, he thought. Not intellectual enough. But Keely just kept cuddling him. And finally, he fell in love, too.

But Koi and Keely don’t think alike. So they have to talk about everything. Thus, I get to watch and learn.

A Cat Talks by Looking

First, a true confession. We live on a quiet street. So, Koi and Keely are indoor-outdoor cats.

Koi loves to be outdoors. All year round, in every kind of weather. He monitors his yard. Checks on our neighbours. Visits his feline friends.

Keely is a summer baby. She’ll spend warm days outdoors. She lies in wait between the raspberry canes. Then leaps out to chase wasps, bees, and dragonflies. But winter disturbs her. Rain and cold irritate her. So, Koi really has to coax her out.

Sometimes, I’ll open the door for Koi. And he’ll just stand in front of it. He’ll look out. He’ll look in. Then out. Then in. Of course, I found this annoying.

Until I realized he was talking to Keely.

“Hey, Keely!” That’s the look in.

“Want to go out?” That’s the look out.

“Come with me! Please!” Another look in.

“It’s hardly raining! Check it out!” Another look out.

Eventually, he’ll take no for an answer. And go on his merry way alone.

A Cat Talks Through Touch and Scent

Unless an enemy is nearby. A cat they both dislike, that is. Then, Koi and Keely go on patrol. Using a tag-team model.

Koi goes out the back door. Circles the house. Once, twice, maybe three times. Keely waits by the door for his return.

Koi comes home. He pokes his head in through the open door. His nose touches Keely’s nose. Then, he steps forward, so his body is halfway inside the door. Keely sniffs a spot on his side. Koi steps all the way in. Keely heads out.

What just happened? A conversation in touch, smell, and sight.

“Okay, Keely,” said Koi, “Here’s everything I learned. Written right on my nose. Enemy’s scent, 15 minutes diluted, found by the maple tree. Also, I rubbed up against the planter. Right here near my tail. Take a sniff. Can you decode this data for me?”

“Sure, boss!” said Keely. “Mission accepted!”

A Cat Talks Through Thought

Finally, there’s another mode. Though I’ve seen it, I don’t fully understand it. In fact, I don’t even know what to call it. Maybe: Telepathy.

Suddenly, I’ll think of Koi for no reason. Then, I’ll check the door. And, sure enough, he’ll be waiting right outside. So, I’ll let him in.

He’ll thank me, with a glance. And then he’ll add a little vocal trill. Because he understands: humans often need words.

Read more about Koi’s telepathy here.

Do you love domestic cats? Fear feral cats? Either way! Consider donating to VOKRA, Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association.

  1. I think you are in good company. The Creator of the Universe likes cats as well, there are four beneath, four above and another in front of his throne. If we can assume a lion is a cat.

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