What Your Cat is Saying to You, and What to Do About It

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A cat wants an audience, much like a person. No Sphinx is she, no riddles to tell, but plain truth, plainly understood. Her language admits of the same comprehension as the infant’s, which labors with crude tools, says Pip, short of Pirrip, papa, short of pappardelle, always impressing its meaning, but her dispatches from beyond the human-animal divide must first be made intelligible by means of translation. The key for such a purpose that follows will help you with the subtleties of her speech, and offer suggestions for her improvement. 


“Meow”

 A compound (not a portmanteau) formed by joining “me” and “ow”, expressing pain. Your cat has learned neither her subjective pronouns, nor the verb “to hurt”. She should be read to regularly, and taught elementary grammar, to improve her command of the language. 


“Meeooow”

 The same sentiment, but voiced with greater urgency, which should prompt the same corrective, following a visit to the veterinarian. 
“Mrkgnao”: She’s demanding milk, now. This order should not be fulfilled; most cats are lactose intolerant, and should drink water instead. If possible, retrain your cat to enjoy and ask for this healthier alternative, using the sound “wtrnao”, or if possible “wtrpls”. 


“Lmao” 

This is vulgar slang learned from her contemporaries. Suffice it to say that it is an initialism (an abbreviation formed by the first letter of each word in a phrase, each pronounced separately) used in online and SMS messaging, never intended for utterance as an acronym, but in anywise expressing unqualified amusement. Unfortunately, your cat cannot chuckle, and should be taught instead to nod in acknowledgment of the humorous jibe or situation. 


“Growl” 

Rage. See you her touch’d with anger so distempered, stay away. Confusing, because a person growling as cats do is most likely attempting to seduce. 


“Yowl!” 

She is attempting something akin to Bruce Springsteen’s howls of metropolitan angst in the outro of “Jungleland”, but has not yet developed the necessary breath control or strength in the diaphragm. If you and she live outside of New York, she has likely misinterpreted the song as aspirational, and identifies in it as in herself the pain of dislocation, distance from that throbbing center where she feels life must be lived. A weekend in the city, with a reservation at Nobu Downtown replacing Saturday’s canned tuna, will satisfy her for a time. Conversely, if she needs to escape from the city, show her some digital reproductions of landscape paintings on Google images, skipping over any that depict birds in flight. 


“Wow” 

Startled or impressed. Both if you just expertly flipped a pancake, but might also be hungry. 


“Ssssss” 

She is taking her time saying “sooo”, prefatory to introducing an uncomfortable subject. This may continue indefinitely if the subject in question is her first impressions of a person newly introduced, or a pair of shoes newly purchased. These opinions must be aired, however provocative. “Out with it!” will best exhort her to state her mind. If you find yourself outraged by what she has to say, let reason prevail over your unruly heart; you know it to be true, probably. 


“Rrrr”

(high-pitched chirp) She is trying to mock the sounds of the birds that torment her each morning from behind the safety of the window facing the fire escape/patio. Explain to her the common wisdom—imitation is in effect a form of flattery—so that she might be motivated to compose a devastating limerick instead. 


“Rrrrrrrr” (low-pitched purr) 

This sound might bring to mind the awful rumble of the motorcycle that careened down your block last Thursday afternoon, and with it the vision of the bedraggled rider, belching gas like his steed, reveling in his own filthiness, in his post-Altamont infamy, and in the clearly “excessive noise” (as defined by the Noise Control Act of 1972) he has unleashed by illegally modifying his vehicle’s exhaust system, replacing the EPA-approved muffler with some ersatz, after-market contraption. No, the nightmare is over, and your cat is simply content (for now). Snuggle up to her, and imagine together a better future, when the common man can expect solicitude for his dignity and repose, when he can trust in the preservation of his habit and manner, and will in turn extend his keenest instinct for sympathy towards those who once tested the very limits of his peaceable constitution. 


“ “ (no sound)

 Cats more than most understand the eloquence of silence. As with persons, silence is not to be mistaken for catatonia, or any other insensible condition; she who speaks nothing sees and judges everything. If you told her a cat pun, answered only by this deathly hush, she surely understood the joke, but is loathe to encourage you in that direction.

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