Learning to Speak Cat

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    Sep 23, 2012
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When we adopted a cat nearly three years ago, we knew very little about them - we had always had dogs before. We were both away frequently on work-related trips, and we had heard and read that cats could easily be left on their own for days at a time so long as they had food and water. We thought we'd be able to leave her any time we needed to, without any worry.

We were wrong.

I began reading and researching about cats on the internet, and the more I read, the more I discovered just how social cats want to be with their humans and how complex their interactions. Cats communicate among themselves primarily by scent and by body language, and they seem to expect that humans will understand these methods. However they also try to communicate with us by meowing. Did you know that cats hardly ever meow to each other? The vocal communication seems to be a technique that they have developed over the centuries as they spent more and more time with humans.

In the wild, cats do not gather in groups as lions do, nor do they have strong family bonds. Females who are near to giving birth will sometimes spend the last few weeks of pregnancy together, helping each other find food and, after the kittens are born, mutually defending them. However within 2-3 months the kittens are becoming independent and soon the mother cat is alone again. The father, of course, is gone away right after getting the female pregnant!

When cats live with humans it appears that they want to form the sort of bond that two females might have in the wild. It's not that they don't want to be friendly and affectionate, but they evolved to be independent and it's difficult at first for them to be trusting and easy in the company of humans. If both sides put in some time and effort, the result is a loving and affectionate relationship that is very rewarding for both parties.

A cat who comes to live in your home will quickly learn the routines and comes to understand what is allowed and what is not. Of course, some of them will sometimes try to get away with things they are not supposed to do, and that is where your superior human intelligence, and patience, are required to kick in. Yelling or throwing things at a cat will only alienate it and teach it to distrust you; patience and love, and teaching the cat alternatives that are acceptable to you, will eventually result in peace and love between cat and human.

Another factor in the myth of cats not requiring much care is their ability to use an indoor litter box as a toilet, thus eliminating the need to walk the animal outside once or more daily. This leads people to the belief that the cat is self-sufficient; but in reality the litter box must be cleaned out daily - who wants to use a stinky toilet? - and there are other reasons, too, why a cat should have companionship. And really, if the cat didn't want and need you - and didn't want to be with you - why would you go to the trouble and expense of providing a home for one?

In a later article I hope to address some of the most important points about cat health and care, especially about dietary requirements.

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Robin Boulton enjoys writing articles on Interesting Articles

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