If Our Pets Could Talk
By Jackie Kellum
Cats are capable of making at least 30 sounds, including at least 19 variations on the simple meow. In general, kittens use meows to communicate with their moms, but grown cats employ them solely to communicate with humans. Cats hisses, growls, squeals, and make other sounds to talk to each other. As a cat ‘parent’ paying attention to the circumstances in which your cat meows or vocalizes, can be fun and help you understand your resident feline a little better.
These are a few meow interpretations ‘shortcuts’: I’m hurt: – If your cat suddenly begins to meow excessively, its meows may indicate that there is something medically wrong, especially if it’s behavior isn’t typical. I want food: – The “I’m hungry” meow is likely one all cat parents know well. Some cats run around after you, meowing the whole time if she thought dinner was going to be late. Pay attention to me: – Sometimes cats talk simply because they want your attention and they have learned that meowing gets what they want. I’m stressed: Cats who are stressed may become more vocal than normal. You may have had this experience with a cat meowing loudly in the car on the way to the vet. I’m ticked off: An angry, agitated cats will often erupt into a screaming match if they feel threatened enough to attack, this mad meow sounds more like a yowl. I don’t want to be alone: When some cats are left alone for lengthy periods of time, they may become anxious and, among other things, meow excessively. I’m getting older: As cats age, they may display a decrease in cognitive function, demonstrated in a variety of ways, including increased loud meowing.
When cats meow right before dawn, a time when you’re probably trying to get a little more sleep, cats are doing what comes naturally. Their circadian rhythms shift with the seasons just as yours do. When the days get longer and the birds are up earlier, so are they. You could feed them to stop their meows, but know that this will reinforce their behavior. Try to stick to strict feeding times, like once in the morning--but not right after you rise because then they will associate you getting out of bed with getting fed. And feed once shortly before you go to bed. Finally, be patient: You are attempting to undo thousands of years of ingrained cat behavior.
A reminder: Just like humans clip and file their nails, cats must maintain their claws. One way is by scratching, which helps them remove dead nail growth. There are two other important explanations behind why they scratch: They do it to mark their territory by using their scent glands on their paws and, to stretch which looks so graceful. Sadly, when a sofa or rug becomes one of their favorite spots to scratch, some people make an inhuman decision and resort to ‘declawing’ a cat. Declawing is comparable to you having the ends of your fingers cut off! This vile action has long-lasting physical disability consequences for a cat. Instead, get your cat a nifty scratching post.
You might have to experiment with different models until you find one he likes; rub it with a little catnip, and give your cat a treat whenever he uses it. You are mine. When cats rub their heads against you, they’re actually just marking you as one of their own, using the concentrated scent glands in their cheeks and head. They do this primarily as a way to let other cats know they own you. Um… congratulations?