One of the primary ways cats communicate is through body language, but they also express themselves vocally. And most cat’s vocal expressions go far beyond just “meow.”
Even though I have no scientific evidence, in my experience, when it comes to being talkative, tortoiseshell cats have most other cats beat. Buckley was one of the most vocal cats I’ve ever come across. She had a range of expression from an almost silent meow to a very loud, demanding cry that almost approached a scream. I often heard her meowing or chattering somewhere in the house. It was almost as if she felt compelled to provide a running commentary on her activities: “I think I’ll go in the bedroom now.” “Oh, maybe I’ll jump up on the window perch. That looks like fun.” “Oh, look! There’s a big blue bird by the feeder!” It seemed that her constant delight at everything in her life needed to be expressed out loud.
Amber, who really wasn’t a typical tortie in a lot of other ways, wasn’t much of a talker, but she purred more than any other cat I have ever known. She purred if you so much as looked at her.
Allegra’s has quite a varied range of expression. She makes a little “brrpp” chirping sound when she’s excited about a toy. Sometimes, she seems to use it for no reason that I can see, so I assume that she’s just particularly happy right then. She also uses a pitiful sounding little whine when she sees me fix my meals in the kitchen. Usually this is accompanied by her putting her paws on my legs, and she’ll only stop once I let her sniff whatever it is I’m making. Since I’m vegetarian, most of the time, that sniff will result in a scrunched up face on her part and she’ll walk away.
Ruby has quite a sound repertoire as well. She squeaks. A lot. It’s a very happy little sound that can range from low volume to extremely high pitched and loud. She squeaks when I talk to her, she squeaks when I touch her, and she squeaks to announce her arrival in a room. She also makes this sweet little noise that’s somewhere between a squeak and a chirp when she first joins me after I’ve gone to bed. It’s like her “here I am, Mom, let’s snuggle” sound, and it makes my heart melt.
And of course, I talk back to them. I believe that talking to our cats is an important part of the feline human bond, and even though they may sometimes display selective hearing, I do believe that they listen to us. I try to avoid using baby talk, but sometimes, they’re just so cute, I can’t help myself.
Do your cats talk, and do you talk back to them?
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.