Cats are very independent, and so they are easily misunderstood, says Dr. Gary Weitzman, chief executive of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and author of the new National Geographic book How to Speak Cat. He aims to unravel the mystery by helping people discern what cats are trying to convey.
16 Shades of Meow
Crafty kitties can make 16 different meow sounds and usually only unleash them when people are around, he said. Meows can be their way of saying feed me, pet me or let me out, and hardly ever get exchanged between cats. This seems to be true as Trish and I had two cats who were silent with one another. Evidently, cat’s know that meowing gets the attention of humans. In turn, humans search to find out what the meow is saying. Is it ..”Let me Out? Could it be “Pet me?” And most of the time it is “Feed me.”
That’s because cats learn they can get something desirable from people if they meow, said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviourists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She also wrote the 2003 textbook Feline Behavior.
The meaning of a scratch or a hiss is pretty clear, but cats can talk in more subtle ways — with their eyes and tails. A slow blink from a feline, for example, is like a wink between friends, Weitzman said.
Watch for Tail Signs
If your cat has extended its tail straight up, it is extending a hand-shake. When the tail is straight up and the cat is approaching you, it is merely saying, “I’m happy to see you. What did you bring me?”
Following Up on the book: “Feline Behavior.”
Susan McMinn, 55, of Tryon, N.C., was eager to try the slow-blinking exercise with her Siamese cat, Jade, after reading the book.
“I sat and blinked slowly at my cat, and she blinked right back. I know she loves me, of course, but now I feel I understand her communication even more,” McMinn said.
McMinn has owned Jade for 10 years and has had six cats over her lifetime, but she says it’s clear she still has a lot to learn. “And I thought I was an expert!” she said.
Even ear and whisker movements signify something worth listening to. If a cat’s ears are flat, don’t get close because it’s scared or facing a fight, Weitzman said.
Look at the Whiskers
When your cat’s whiskers are out to the side, you can be assured that your feline is happy and friendly. Whiskers are twice as thick as human hair. Their roots are rooted three times as deep as human hair. They are essential for direction and for getting prey.
Enjoy your wonderful cat(s) and do blink at them.