What is your Cat Saying?
17 February, 2014
All cat owners typically know what our kitties are telling us as we get to know their personalities. We can tell or decipher what they want by their actions and gestures. It is important for our cats to understand us as we try to teach our cats to do (or not to do) certain things. For instance, teaching our cats simple commands like ‘down’ or ‘no’ will help make our kitty a better pet, while words like ‘treats’ or ‘breakfast’ will help her associate you with something pleasurable.
Feline language is a mix of facial expression, tail position, ear position and other forms of body language in addition to scent and sound. Cats learn to make demands of us by observing which of their sounds cause which human responses.
What is Your Cat Saying?
Whether your cat is vocal or not, she will be fluent in body language, a key component of her interactions with you and other animals. Your kitty will paw you with a loving meow when he or she wants her food.
The following meows are fairly common to most cats:
Short meow: “hello” how goes it.
Mid-pitch meow: A plea for something, usually dinner, treats, or to be let outside.
The long meow: “Where’s my food? Did you forget to clean the litter?”
High-pitch Meow: “Don’t try to clip my nails!”
The long meow to nobody in particular – “I’m older and a bit confused”
And the more obvious signs of communication:
Purring: Most often a sign happiness but can also be response to hide weakness from predators.
Hiss: Stay away from me.
How you can communicate with your cat
As you communicate with your cat, the words you use are not as important as how you say them and the body language that accompanies them. If you say ‘no’ in the same voice as you use for ‘good girl’ you’ll confuse your cat and she’ll misinterpret what you’re saying. Consistency is the key to successful communication with your kitty.
If you are trying to correct a negative behavior, use a loud, firm voice, and use this same tone consistently in tune with body language. For example, when ordering your cat ‘down’, use a stern voice and use one of your hands to point down.
To reward good behavior or when calling your cat to dinner or offering treats, use a higher-pitched ‘happy’ and motion with your hand.
If your cat is begging for attention when you are trying to work or trying to eat your food, you will need to say ‘no’ firmly and gently push your cat away without showing affection. Cats don’t understand our personal space and will try to invade it, so you may need to repeat the no (gentle push) combination several times before your kitty gives up and leaves you alone. If you say “no” and pet your cat instead of pushing her away, she will interpret your actions as a welcome signal. (I have a really hard time with this one and usually give in!)
If you consistently use the same voice, facial expressions and hand gestures, most cats will have no trouble understanding what you say. The more you communicate with your cat, the better the two of you will become at understanding each other. Each cat has their own way of communicating and you will learn from trial and error what works.