Second Chance: Chatty Catty
Dear Pet Column,
I have a very vocal cat with a wide range of vocabulary, including his meow greeting which sounds awfully similar to “hello…” Is there a way to figure out what all of his sounds mean?
The Cat Whisperer
Dear Cat Whisperer,
My name is Clementine. I am a five-year-young, gorgeous and unusual female orange tabby (unusual as orange tabby’s are usually always male) here at Second Chance Humane Society with a lot to say about chatty cats.
I begin with a little back info…
Non-domesticated cats, which are typically independent hunters, have limited need for an extensive vocal repertory as cat-to-cat vocalizations are generally restricted to communicating with one’s kittens, sexual partners, and potential enemies.
However, through domestication we have learned that an expanded vocabulary gets results within our human families. Changing the volume, intensity and number of repetitions of our vocalizations, coupled with expressive body language, ensures that our messages are received and our needs are met.
The purr is the most common sound issued by felines.
Kittens just a few hours old begin purring as they nurse. While purring is often heard when cats seem content, those familiar with handling cats in pain or near death know that we also purr when under duress, the reason for which is still our secret.
Rarely heard between cats, meowing seems specifically designed for cat-human inter-communication.
Early on, we notice our meows bring attention, contact, food, and play from human companions. Some behaviorists (and cat parents like yourself) suggest that certain cats alter their meows to suit different purposes, and that some parents can differentiate between, say, the “I’m Hungry!” meow, the “Pet Me!” meow, and of course the “Hello” meow. I personally would not dispute those claims as I have mastered the words “Adopt Me!” quite well.
When highly aroused, cats also employ some unique sounds beyond meowing such as the chirping at the sight of prey. When frustrated – for instance, when indoors and unable to get to the birds at the feeder – our chirping turns more to chatter. And then our distress call, issued as a kitten when cold or isolated from our mothers, sounds like an angry wail. As we mature, this distress call is used for other forms of protest.
A hiss denotes an intense emotional state and is typically uttered when we are surprised by something perceived as threatening.
A high-pitched shriek or scream is expressed when we are in pain or fearful and aggressive.
Snarling is often heard when two toms are in the midst of a fight over territory or female attention.
And a long, low-pitched growl signals danger.
I hope this helps you to better communicate with your cat and to better appreciate our intelligence and yearning for human bonding. I am actually a rather quiet mellow girl, who really enjoys cuddling. If I could talk, I would let you know that my person died recently and my life has simply just not been the same. I am hoping for a new home of my own where we can cuddle and you can pet my long soft fur. I am good with other cats and do enjoy a good game of chess.
Looking for a lap dog rather than a lap cat? Come meet Sicily, who is the last of Second Chance’s most recent small puppy mill dog rescues. This 10-years-young Poodle is my favorite because she is super sweet. Sicily loves to run and play in the yard, is housetrained, and good with other dogs and cats.
Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.
By the by, there is no better place to park your pup or get your pup (or adult dog) trained than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)
Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online: www.adoptmountainpets.org
Vetting the Vet: Dr. Michelle Dally, DVM, J.D. is Medical Director of Second Chance Humane Society. She also has a private practice, Dally Veterinary Medicine, 333 S. Elizabeth Street, Ridgway, Colorado. Her service area is San Miguel Mesas, Placerville, Ridgway, Ouray, and Montrose. For more on Dr. Dally, go here.