Last night a friend on Twitter sent the following tweet:
— Edna Wong (@EdnasPetHacks) April 10, 2016
It got me thinking. There is so much we don’t know, scientifically speaking, about how cats communicate. As I was reading some of the material for this post, I realized how much of what science is just proving, is stuff that I always assumed from my experiences with cats. Or stuff I just didn’t notice. For example, an article I read talked about cats rubbing on your leg when you get home as a way of your cat greeting you. Yup, that was always what I thought my cat was doing. Greeting me and claiming me as his again. It’s what cats do to each other, so why not to me, the giant 2 legged cat?
It also got me thinking about how cats and their communication changes. Within the last few months Sneakers has become a very vocal cat. After 3 years with us, he has started meowing and squeaking at us. Mostly when he is hungry and excited to be fed. Occasionally he squeaks if he wants attention and just isn’t getting it. (He finally realized making noise gets attention!) Every once in a while he squeaks a bit when playing with his toys.
Edna’s tweet also reminded me of something I read recently, that adult cats only meow at humans. They don’t meow at each other. Sure, kittens mew to their mother to get her attention, letting her know if they are cold or hungry. Adults may also yowl or growl at each other, according to the ASPCA, but they do not meow at each other.
When I read this I didn’t believe it. Of course cats meow at each other. My cats are not just meowing at me to manipulate me…except they totally are. When I looked back at all the cats I have lived with and worked with, I realized I didn’t have any memories of them meowing at each other. Muffin would growl or hiss at her brothers. My poor Poosh yowled for his mother when he was left behind. Mamma Kitty and Little Black don’t meow at each other. Not one have I seen them vocalize towards each other. I walk outside though and that Ms. Black has a thousand stories to tell me. This is also something that developed over time.
According to this amazing article on Nymag.com “cats and their human develop a secret language of meows.” Basically, you can tell what your cat means when she meows at you, based on the tone etc. Other people hearing your cat meow don’t understand what those tones mean though. Which makes sense. Why wouldn’t we make our own language with our cats? Think about it, when your partner says “fine” you know by their tone just what is meant by that “fine.” You know what your mom and your best friend mean by the tone of their voices and the way they hold their bodies. Why wouldn’t it be the same with your cat? (I frequently have clients at work tell me “that’s her sad meow” or “that’s his pissed voice” when I comment on a patient’s vocalizations)
I look forward to learning more about cat vocalization. Of course cats do most of their communicating through their body. Watch her ears and that tail for the most obvious clues to your cat’s mood. It will be interesting to see what other little things we learn about cats communication and vocalizations with us and each other.