Cat tales: Let’s talk
Ever wished you knew what us cats are thinking and feeling? Isn’t it amazing when humans ask for something and suddenly we decide to listen like going over for a sniff at what our human is offering us, or sitting with our family for some quality stroking time?
Cat lovers want to know all kinds of things about their pet’s health, behaviour, likes and dislikes. It would be great if humans could ask and cats would just tell.
When my human comes home all ruffled after a hard day at work, I run up to her, climb into her lap, tuck my paws in and begin to purr. It is an instant remedy to calm her down. She strokes me, smiles, talks to me sometimes gently, or sometimes tells me how tough her day was. That is our time, our precious time when we communicate.
When we purr, it is to let everyone know that all is well in my world. We share our feeling of contentment with you humans. In case you don’t know much about cats or how we purr — it is a soft vibrating rumble. It can be felt if you softly keep your hand on our upper back. It is like a vibration. And what produces this characteristic sound?
Bruce Fogle, a renowned vet and author of The Cat’s Mind, wrote that purring is a kitten’s way to tell mama-cat that all is well.
Kittens can purr by the second day of their lives. Mama-cat must purr back to say, “If all is well with you, it is fine by me too”.
So how is a purr generated? It is initiated from the central nervous system and the vocal cords vibrate using air to create a sound like a hum, while the mouth is closed.
More importantly, it is a voluntary act meaning that cats purr only when they want to. Generally, cats purr to indicate contentment or pleasure, but badly frightened or very sick cats also purr, and so do female cats when they are having babies.
Why cats purr under stressful circumstances is perhaps because they are reassuring or comforting themselves, like humans may sing to themselves or hum when they are nervous. Frightened cats may also purr to communicate non-aggressive intentions when they want you to help them. One thing is for sure, purring is something that creates a connection between humans and cats.
To be able to understand your cats more, you must learn their language so here goes:
Chatter: People chatter when they are happy and excited about something. With us cats, it is often a unique sound that is from the throat and often associated with a very quick movement of their lower jaw. It is most commonly made when we are excited about something.
Chirp: A chirp is often a high-pitched sound that is often a surprised greeting. I do it when my human comes home or surprises me with a really nice treat. It is something between a squeak and a “chirp” like a surprised “Hi”!
Growl: A growl is a low sound produced as a warning or to express anger. Sometime growls come with claws or bites. We are not in a good mood when we are growling.
Hiss: Now you really can’t miss a hiss. It is short, sharp and shows how we disapprove of a situation. It could mean “hey stop it” or “get away”. Sometimes we also hiss when we are little bit frightened, to scare away something that scares us. If that doesn’t work, we can always follow up with a growl or attack.
Meow: It always means we want attention like “What about me?” or a greeting. Sometimes we also meow when we are in pain, which is often a high, pitched and loud.
When you are feeling low, you may be sending those messages from your body to your cats. That is why sometimes your cat just gets up and walks over to sit with you for a few minutes. Also remember that cats understand your tone and volume, more than words.
Listen to your cat and pay attention to what he or she wants and is trying to communicate at the time. This will help you develop a better connection with the cat world.