This Article will help us to know that how cats perceive the world and to adjust our behavior to accommodate their physical and emotional needs as best we can.Those who deny that cats, or other animals, are entirely lacking in feelings do this to justify their own treatment of animals.

For My Cats Zeeba, Chicken, Sweety Pie and kitten Shiny.Who made me to do this Research

cats

FELINES TALK
“Language”, by definition, is not merely a collection of words strung together. It is a collection of words strung together in a particular and meaningful way so that the words have meaning in relation to each other and can frame an overall concept. Language is more than just words. Language has grammar (basic rules) and syntax (sentence structure).There is many excellent books about language; my personal recommendation is “The Language Instinct” by Stephen Pinker – it is both informative and clearly written.

Humans have an instinctive need to communicate with fellow humans and to receive communication in return. This drive is often extended to our interaction with non-humans. Just as we look for recognizable sounds when babies learn to talk, we look for recognizable sounds in our cats’ “vocabulary”. Rather than simply distinguishing a “feed me” miaow from a “let me out please” miaow we try to interpret some of these sounds as words and are remarkably good at self-deception. Cats may not actually ‘talk’, but they have a large vocabulary of meows and other sounds, as well as a vast range of body language.

As we don’t speak the same language as our cats, there are often misunderstandings – our pets don’t realize what we want them to do, and we don’t realize what they’re trying to tell us. But by learning just a little feline language, you will be able to better understand your cat.

According to my friend Dr Naz Khan Cats can learn behaviors through observation. My own observations suggest that some cats learn to imitate certain sounds as well. Cats can make sounds and work out which sounds elicit suitable responses from humans (positive feedback). Can cats therefore learn to make certain sounds i.e. imitate certain human sounds if they know it will get a favorable response? Here I will have to give cats the benefit of the doubt. It may be that, in spite of lacking the apparatus for speech, some cats do indeed make the effort. Equally, it may be that owners are over-compensating for the cat’s inability to talk and are hearing what they want to hear, regardless of what the cat has really said!

Another feature of human speech is that it comes in bursts; a mix of different sounds and pauses between sounds, plus inflection and intonation. Tone of voice probably means much more to a cat than the actual words used, although many owners maintain that their cat understands every word they say. Cats certainly manage intonation and can miaow in a questioning manner, a demanding manner, a forlorn manner or simply as a statement. By observing our response they adopt the various tones of miaow for appropriate circumstances. Puss probably isn’t thinking “I want to go out so I shall ask nicely,” he may ask me his manner ‘meannaunn…….. He is more likely to be thinking “I want to go out and I know that this type of noise usually does the trick.”

In their attempts to communicate with us on our own level, some cats put together full “sentences” of noises and pauses. They might simply be inviting us to talk back to them (most cats like this sort of attention from their owners). It is interesting that such cats string together a series of different sounds into a single burst of communication, with pauses between “words”, which an owner likens to a sentence. Some owners say that their cats do much the same and are right chatterboxes, with Siamese and Oriental cats being particularly vocal.

My cat Zeeba was a conversationalist. I had identified 23 distinct phonemes in multiple combinations that significantly diverge from the familiar “meow”. These include sounds een,eeen” (she shakes her head after using a clicking phoneme) and various mumbled words and phrases, some of which sound similar to English – including one that resembles “Chesham”! Zeeba used to make a cute surprised/interested sounding “pooh”. Like human child, Zeeba used to enjoy holding conversations with my daughters, responding to their speech with patterns of sounds that mimic the sounds and cadence of human speech.

I belief very much that cats, can truly speak, cat-sounds are more diverse and more meaningful like human beings. What I don’t doubt is that there are a number of cats having a jolly good attempt – whether in Urdu or any other tongue.

Indeed they do. My friend and I found that interacting with a cat can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and lower a person’s introvertedness. Interestingly, former cat owners also had higher levels of depressive moods and anxiety than current cat owners, implying that it is really the presence of the cats, besides interacting with them, that helps improve our moods. However, women’s moods are more strongly affected by the cats than men’s moods.

Yes, I have noticed that cats do react to an owner’s current mood, especially when depressed, but only after the owner initiates contact and comes close to the cat. Once that happens, the cat stays closer to the person, and vocalizes and flank-rubs more often, than when the person who has approached the cat is in a better mood.

My research implies that they consider us as true social partners, even when they were socialized to both other cats and people during their infancy. Still, they learn about our behavior during later interactions with us, and I do not believe they view us as other cats, certainly not as “mothers,” although we provide them with food.

Just accept these fascinating animals as they are — as independent, self-willed creatures who, in the case of cats allowed outdoors, choose to continue to live together with us (always returning home) and in the process, offer us more than most people ever imagine or are conscious of.

HAVE CATS EVOLVED TO COMMUNICATE WITH HUMANS?

“Pleasant” meows were shorter in duration, with higher frequencies and tended to descend in pitch (change from high to low notes). “Urgent” meows were longer in duration, with lower frequencies and ascended in pitch (began on low notes and escalated to higher ones). Rarely was a meow classed as both “pleasant” and “urgent” at once. The highly urgent calls tended to be the least pleasant-sounding while the highly pleasant ones were rated less urgent.

Does the ability to communicate with humans provide a clear survival advantage so that good communicators/manipulators survive longer and produce more offspring than poor communicators? Probably not since it is only relatively recently that cats have become house-pets rather than utilitarian animals (rodent controllers). Naz Khan admits that it is possible that cats may have co-evolved with humans to better communicate with people; they caution it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

Although not strictly a vocalization, the purr is an important means of communication and, depending on the cat’s situation, it can convey contentment, pleasure or be placatory behavior (i.e. “I am not a threat to you”). As well as purring when happy, cats also purr when severely injured, frightened or giving birth. A cat may even purr when close to death.

The purr was therefore likened to the obsequious behavior of a submissive cat when avoiding conflict with a larger, more powerful animal. It also noted that some cats, both male and female, gave low growl-like purrs as a warning when a stranger entered their territory. This is inaccurate; the “growl-purr” is in fact a low growl.

Purring is caused by vibration of structures in the throat, though previous explanations have attributed the sound to the noise of blood turbulence in the chest! A truly ecstatic cat sometimes vocalizes (uses its vocal cords) while purring, resulting in a shrill noise. Purring is also found in the cheetah, puma and most small cats such as the serval and ocelot. Big cats such as lions and tigers cannot purr because their throats are built for roaring. Although there are a few reports of purring-type sounds (which may be a breathy groaning sound) from lions and tigers, it seems that a cat can either purr or roar, but not both!

Since purring uses energy and has been passed on through many generations of cats, it must have some function. One puzzle was why a sick or injured would expend energy on purring, when it needs all its energy for healing? Researchers believed that suggestions that the cat’s purr evolved solely to communicate self-contentment goes against evolutionary theory. The fact that cats purr when injured suggested that it had some survival value, for example a healing function. Cats close to death may also purr, suggesting a pain relieving function. Since many cats purr when on their own, the purr cannot merely be a form of communication – why would a cat purr when there is no-one around to communicate with?

Though this sounds far fetched, research in humans has shown certain frequencies of vibration relieved suffering in over three-quarters of test subjects suffering from acute or chronic pain. Ultrasound is often used alongside physiotherapy. Effects include (depending on the patient) generating new tissue growth, augmenting wound tissue strength, improving local circulation and oxygenation, reducing swelling and even inhibiting bacterial growth. Vibration at low frequencies and low intensities can aid bone growth/repair, tendon and muscle strength/repair, joint mobility, reduce inflammation and reduce breathlessness. I have had ultrasound treatment on damaged tissue in a broken foot and one curious effect was a hot feeling at the fracture site!

The soothing effect of a purring cat is well-known to cat lovers. Researchers believed that vibrating (purring) cats were communicating more than just a sense of well-being to their owners.

Though to humans, the purr is most often considered a sign of contentment or of a cat reassuring itself, the researchers concluded that after a strenuous activity (hunting, defending territory etc), a period of purring could act like a massage session and alleviate sprains and strains as well as speeding the healing of any wounds. The sense of relaxation many owners feel when cuddling a purring cat suggests that the therapeutic function of the purr can extend to humans.

Can cats talk? Many cat owners would like to think so and some even claim that their cats speak a number of recognizable words. A street cat takes claims one step further by apparently being able to sing a number of well known songs, which she hears in night time strolling in the empty streets, while the Chinese student of mine carried a report of a cat which speaks several words in Chinese and suggested, with tongue firmly in cheek, that the reason many owners cannot understand their cats is because the cats are speaking chin ease. But before cat-owners rush out for phrase books, are these cats really speaking or are their owner’s just talking Chinese? For humans, the terms ‘speech’ and ‘talk’ are not restricted to vocalization, but encompass human body language (which most of us read without realizing it), gestural languages (sign language) and tactile languages (of deaf-blind individuals) which are equally expressive among those fluent in their use. Further, human language comprises both verbal and non-verbal components (including the written extension of body language through gestural substitutes

The cat’s vocal apparatus differs from our own and is not designed with speech in mind. However cats need to communicate, both with other cats and with owners. They “speak” to each other through body language, communicating feelings and intentions through posture and facial expression. Scent is also an important component of cat communication. In addition, they have a vocabulary of sounds ranging from caterwauls to mewing sounds, from hisses to the “silent meow” which is probably a sound pitched too high for human ears to hear. The familiar “miaow” is used mainly for communicating with humans as we are evidently too thick to understand anything other than kitten-talk.

DO CATS HAVE LANGUAGE?

It is a very convenient habit of kittens that whatever you say to them, they always purr. If they would only purr for ‘yes’ and mew for ‘no’, or any rule of that sort, so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can one deal with a person if they always say the same thing?”

They make a variety of different sounds which, among humans would be called “words”, but in our belief that we are naturally superior to “dumb” animals, we don’t call cat-sounds “words”. Since the sounds don’t conform to our notion of grammatical structure…

Most cat-owners, however, are aware that there are a whole variety of meows that differ in pitch, rhythm, volume, tone and pronunciation. I attempted to categories these according to the cat’s age, gender and situation:-

Kittens:
The first language a kitten learns is that of smell. It is blind, deaf and defenseless but it has well-developed senses of smell and touch (including warmth detection) to guide it to the mother.The mother identifies her kittens by their individual scent and by her own scent on them. This then is the first mode of communication the kitten learns. Scent will play an important role all through the cat’s life.

Cats have scent glands on the chin, lips (in the corners), and temples and at the base of the tail. Each cat has its own scent signature. When it washes, a cat transfers its scent from these glands to its fur. When they are able to speak, they produce following sounds.

Mew (high pitched and thin) – a polite plea for help
MEW! (Loud and frantic) – An urgent plea for help

Adult cats:
Mew – plea for attention
Mew (soundless) – a very polite plea for attention “Silent Miaow” which is probably a sound pitched too high for human ears)
Meow – emphatic plea for attention
MEOW! – A command!
Me-o-own – protest
MEE-o-own – stronger protest
MYUP! (Short, sharp, single note) – Righteous indignation
MEOW! Meow! (Repeated) – Panicky call for help
Me-r-r-own (chirrup with liting cadence) – friendly greeting
Tomcats:

RR-YOWWW-EEOW-RR-YOW-OR -
Marrow – challenge to another male
Meriow – courting call to female
Mother cats:

MEE-OW – come and get it!
Meee-ownnn come and take food
Maun Maun dont fight with each other
meOW – follow me!
ME R-R-R-ROW – take cover!
Mar ROW! – No! Or Stop It!
Mreeeep (burbled) – hello greeting to kittens and disarming greeting to Adult cats (also used between adult cats and humans)
There is more to felines than the simple miaow though. In the last summer I made a detailed study of cat vocabulary and found sixteen meaningful sounds, which included consonants and vowels. I divided cat-sounds into three groups:-

Murmurs made with the mouth closed
Vowel sounds made with the mouth closing as in “ciao”
Sounds made with the mouth held open.
Observant owners will notice the following sounds which cats make to communicate their state of mind (this list is not exhaustive, since cats will improvise):

Chatter – excitement, frustration e.g. when prey is out of reach or escapes (involves rapid teeth-chattering jaw movements)
Chirrup – friendly greeting sound, a cross between a meow and a purr! (Friendly greeting sound with rising inflection; familiar to most cat owners)
Cough-bark – alarm signal (rare in pet cats); like us, cats can cough both voluntarily and involuntarily)
Growl – threat, challenge, warns others to go away
Hiss (with or without spit) – threat, fear, warns others to back off
Meow – general-purpose attention seeking sound used by adult cats to communicate with owners or with kittens
Mew (of kittens) – distress, hunger, cold (to attract mother’s attention)
Purr – contentment, relaxation, also to comfort itself if in pain (cats in extremis may purr); a loud purr invites close contact or attention
Scream – fear, pain, anger, distress
Squawk – surprise, shock (somewhat strangled sound)
Yowl – a threat, offensive or defensive, but also used in a modified form by some cats seeking attention when owner is out of sight
Idiosyncratic sounds – a sound which a particular cat uses in a particular context.
Note: While cats may lack the complex and abstract emotions of humans, they have basic emotions characterized by responses in certain regions of the brain. These basic emotions, which include fear, distress and anger.
.

Another suggestion for teeth chattering, in outdoor cats at least, is to hypnotize prey. Some owners have claimed that cats can call birds, even flying birds, closer by chattering at them. Personally, I consider it unlikely that cats are imitating birds to encourage them to approach and the chattering more likely related to the birds being out of easy ambush range. I also find it unlikely that the chattering hypnotizes prey such as squirrels or chipmunks though it might make the animals curious enough to overcome caution. Many prey species don’t have good color vision and rely on movement for their visual clues and are lulled into a false sense of security. By sitting still, the cat is almost invisible, but it is becoming tense with excitement. Teeth-chattering may be related to the build-up of tension in a cat’s body before it pounces or rushes its prey – you can see the cat tensing its limbs. The chattering seems to be an overspill of excitement. Another sign of emotional leakage in a stalking cat is the twitching tail.

Cat-owners will recognize many of the cat-sounds listed, although we may refer to them in more anthropomorphic terms: greet, grumble, nag, whimper, swear, sing etc. Some cats add their own idiosyncratic words to this general vocabulary such as the sudden exhalation of air used by my own cat, This word, which we call “food” or “fro off” can be anything from an exclamation (“Oh!” and “Well”), a comment (“So?” and “Huh?”), a non-committal response when we speak to her (“Hmmm”), or a noise to be used when she feels she needs to say something, but can’t think of anything meaningful to say (small-talk and self-satisfied murmuring.)

Other idiosyncratic sound is “Squabble – a series of short and long meows and grunts made in a complaining tone that occur when a cat is moved or made to do something it would rather not do”. “Roaring” is more often associated with big cats than small cats, but nevertheless there have been several reports of domestic cats that roar, often to proclaim “I am here”. Roaring in pet cats should always be investigated by a vet as it can be a symptom of throat problems. Some caterwauling tomcats suffer partial voice loss after strenuous yowling and end up roaring. Maybe those few perfectly healthy cats that roar their territorial claims were lions in a past life.

Cat’s vocabulary increased as it matured. Initially, newborn kittens only purred (contentment) or mewed (distress). They learned to interpret the wider range of noises made by their mother, and in response they developed the ability to make a wider variety of communicative sounds. In fact this process continues throughout a cat’s life – owners who frequently talk to their cats are often rewarded by cats who “talk” back to them.

Kittens learn a great deal from imitating their mother, and cats retain the ability to learn and adapt into their adult life. They soon discover that humans use sounds in order to communicate and most cats react to this by developing different sounds for certain circumstances. A plaintive miaow is best suited to achieving a goal such as extra grub or an open door while a friendly chirrup elicits a favorable response when the cat greets its owner. Many of these noises are accompanied by exaggerated actions as the cat “acts out” its communication – by running back and forth between owner and closed door or by licking invisible crumbs from an obviously empty food dish.

Humans have an innate language instinct and a need to communicate vocally (or through sign language etc) with everyone about them. Adults with small children use a simplified version of language known as baby-talk (called “motherese” by some linguists) where certain words and syllables are greatly stressed and frequently repeated. These efforts are rewarded when baby makes noises back and parents readily identify meaningful noises (“mum-mum”) in their babies when the rest of us hear only random babble. In response, parents talk even more to their offspring.

Whether or not we consider our cats to be surrogate children, we tend to relate to them in a similar way, using motherese to communicate with them. Cats may respond to this verbal barrage by making noises of their own. After all, if their humans need to communicate through all this audible chit-chat, any self-respecting cat is going to have make noises if it is to stand any chance of getting attention! And since the owner lacks much of the necessary apparatus needed for speaking felines (tail, mobile ears, whiskers, erectile fur) it is up to the cat to learn humanese.

One feature common to both cats and people is the use of a slightly raised tone of voice to indicate friendliness and a lowered tone of voice to indicate displeasure, aggression etc. Friendly chirrup and food-seeking miaow are usually uttered in a raised tone of voice while the low-pitched growl of a cross cat is undeniably unfriendly. Volume is sometimes used for added emphasis e.g. a strident miaow for urgency, a gentle “burp” for contentment. Cats which simply feel compelled to add their two penn’orth to a conversation often do not do so in a neutral tone of voice to indicate that they are not being particularly hostile, or unduly friendly, nor is there any great urgency about the subject matter.

Most owners of Siamese and Oriental cats say that these breeds are more talkative than other breeds. Beneath their non-Siamese coloring Orientals are basically Siamese cats, with the modern Siamese being chattier than the older style Siamese.

Siamese cats were well known for talkativeness, but were often simply dismissed as noisy, yowling cats. Siamese vocabulary included “A longish mew of medium pitch is often emitted soon after the cat is let into a room. This is possibly purely conversational, serving to inform people that it has arrived and is passing the time of day. A far more plaintive sound is made whet cats wish to be let in or out, or to attract attention to them if they feel they have been unjustly ignored. Very occasionally, Siamese may be heard ‘speaking’ in the middle of a yawn which would appear to signify that they wish others to be made aware of their boredom or fatigue. There is also a lowest stuttering sound, used to make complaints of a rather general nature. This is by no means an exhaustive list of Siamese ‘phrases’ but rather a random selection.”

“Burmese are likewise given to oral communication but, as a result of having a slightly narrower range of pitch than the Siamese, they rely on variations in length and volume of their mews to provide a large number of different ‘remarks’. In contrast, British Shorthairs tend to show the reserve traditionally attributed to their human counterparts; they vocalize a lot less than the Orientals and their mews, when uttered, are usually brief. A range of pitches can none the less be detected. Sharp sounds generally signify distress or impatience, while those of medium pitch are used for less urgent situations such as polite request for food. A mew emitted whilst purring usually means the animal is contented. Long-haired breeds, on the whole, have rather high-pitched voices, and unless they are extremely upset the volume of their mews is fairly low. To see a small, fluffy kitten quietly requesting attention almost makes a human being – who is in no place to translate his feelings to the cat – think the kitten realizes that the appeal of its face makes noisiness unnecessary.”

Cats evolved to communicate with human’s .Cats are obviously very dependent on people for their needs and that they may have evolved to become better at managing and manipulating people. While domestic cats may not know language, this study suggested that cats, which have lived alongside humans for many years, have adapted their “meows” to better communicate with humans.

About The Author

Founder of BeMozza

Related Posts