Friday, May 8, 2009
Learning to Listen
Some cats are pretty quiet, only making sounds when they are hungry, hurt, or angry. Jasmine, our dearly departed Abyssinian, had a very soft, hoarse meow sound which she made if she was hungry. The sound was so soft that sometimes she would open her mouth and nothing could be heard, though you knew she was trying. Another of our cats had a special sound she would make when she had caught something and was carrying it home to present it to us as a trophy. It was a rather muffled mew sound that escaped around the edges of whatever she might have in her mouth. That cat's name was Muss. We didn't name her, she was a hand-me-down cat from my sister-in-law. Muss had some quirks, oh yes, she had some quirks. One of them was that she liked to hunt, kill and bring home socks from our neighbor's clothesline. She would march proudly into the kitchen with her dead sock trophy in her mouth, all the while making the muffled mewing sound. She was very proud, and we were embarrassed. We would retrieve the poor dead socks and hang them over the fence between the backyards so that our neighbors could match them up with their missing mates. One year, we gave our neighbors a bag of clothes pins for Christmas. The number of their sock losses declined drastically once they started using them. I'm not sure that this explains where all the missing socks go, but it certainly explains a whole lot of the ones in Hollywood for several years.
Quint is the most talkative cat we've every had, and has the ability to produce quite a broad spectrum of sounds. He makes a sort of warbling chirp, very bird-like, that means "Hi, I'm here. What are you doing?" There's an annoyed sort of loud ROOWWWRRR that means "Hey!! Come here! There's something outside you should see!" Then there is the MEOW? with the question mark ending that says "Is it time to play?" Of course, there is the MEOW! with the exclamation point that means "Feed me now!" There is also the long plaintive Meeeoooowwww! which can mean "Okay, enough is enough, can you please play with me!" or just "Will someone please pay attention to me now?" It's his very own language and he combines the various sounds into what I would have to call sentences, short sentences, granted, but still definite intentional sentences which we try very hard to understand. He made one statement just a moment ago which I interpreted to mean, "Hey, Carol's trimming the plants outside the dining room window, could you ask her to come in and pet me?" To which I replied, "I know, I know, I waiting for her, too. We'll just have to be patient." I'm almost certain I got that one right. Some others we have to guess at.