How kittens learn to talk cat-talk
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 favourable 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.
Also it should be menthioned that Kittens are quite territorial animals and use aromatic markers called pheromones to help establish and maintain their "property". These powerful scents are critical "sign posts" for communicating with other cats and are emitted by a number of glands located throughout your kitten's body.
|Here are some examples how you can make a guess at the mood of your kitten. |
• Raising and moving its head back - someone is coming too close.
• Half closing its eyes and slightly turning its ears to the side - your kitten is enjoying itself.
• Pointing its ears, turning them back and narrowing the pupils - this is a warning. Your kitten may be grumpy so leave it alone for a while.
• The pupils dilate despite the bright light - your kitten is startled.
• Pointing its ears and opening its eyes wide - your kitten wants to play!
• Laying back its ears, closing the eyes halfway and slightly turning its head - a peace offering. Your kitten is telling you it won't harm you and expects the same.
Kittens enjoy body contact for reassurance and affection. So rubbing cheeks with you acts not only as a means to pick-up or leave scent markers, but is also a means to create a relationship based upon physical contact.
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 felinese (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 "brrp" for contentment. Cats which simply feel compelled to add their two penn'orth to a conversation often do so in a neutral tone of voice to indicate that they are not being particularly hostile, nor unduly friendly, nor is there any great urgency about the subject matter.
First, it is important to understand that cats don't talk like we do (as you know) but rather, they meow and use body language to talk to each other and to us. It is also important to understand that the way a cat will "talk" or communicate to a human is different than the way he or she will talk to another cat. Lets first talk about how cats can communicate with each other.
When a cat wants to talk to another cat, it will rarely Meow. Rather, cats talk to each other using body language, and other methods of communication. For example, if a cat feels scared, he or she will puff up its tail, and the hairs on the cats back will stand up straight. If a cat wants to say hello to another cat (in a friendly way) he or she will slowly walk up to the other cat and they will touch noses.
If a cat wants to let another cat know that he is submissive to the other cat, he or she will lower his or her head. There are lots and lots of different ways that cats talk to each other, and there are many books that you can get from a library that will show pictures of what different positions or signals mean.
So what about all this meowing? Well, cats tend to meow when they want to communicate with a human. Usually, they meow when they want to get your attention, to show you something or to let you know they are hungry, upset, etc.
Cats also communicate with people like they communicate with other cats. For instance, if your kitty roles onto its back and stretches out, it probably it trying to tell you that he wants a belly rub. Sometimes they growl, hiss or tell you they want to be left alone.
There are 2 different things: talking and understanding. In a way both are needed to communicate. Meowing have many different sounds that differ following if dogs or cats wish to transmit joy, sadness, fear, angry and other emotions.
Mostly communicate emotions. They do that with sounds and some gesture of its bodies. Here's a "vocabulary" (common to all cats born any place):
- moving the tail: depending the speed, means fear or/ anger;
- licking the lips with the tongue: I am hungry!
- spanking a little one (kitty) with a paw: go away!
- closing the eyes very slowly in front of you: I love you! (you can answer the same way)
- purring: it the universal way of happiness and love(mostly the times)
and so on...
Study your cat's behavior and have fun learning to communicate with it. Keep in mind, cats will learn tricks just like dogs and will copy human behaviors, so pay attention!Sometimes it's pretty easy to figure out what your cat wants, he or she will usually show you. Just get up and kitty will lead you to the problem area. A deep throated meow usually means your cat is hungry or thirsty.
| Body Language and Sounds Cats Make|
|Purring ||Kitty is happy and content. Glad for your company.|
|Soft tiny meow ||Your cat really wants attention and is a plea for sympathy, like maybe a spot on your lap.|
|Meow ||Kitty is trying to get your attention.|
|Yeowling||Lonely or restless. The Golden Hour is about to begin.|
|Upright Tail, normal posture ||A happy, nothing to worry about cat. Not a thing wrong.|
|Upright tail-arched back ||Cat is afraid or senses something is not right. Cat is exploring the situation.|
|Tail thumping hard and wildly ||Cat is very irritated and is angry. Stop whatever you are doing to it. Can also mean a cat really wants what it sees. Don't bother it.|
|Tail tip twitching ||Cat is becoming irritated. Last warning before the tail thump.|
|Tail between the legs ||Cat is frightened, does not feel comfortable with the surroundings. Kitty needs to be reassured.|
|Ears back-rock steady posture ||Kitty is unsure of what to do, what move to make. It is processing the information.|
|Ears back-body low to the ground ||Cat has done something it knows you will not like.|
|Slow, sneaky low to the ground crawl ||Cat is going after something, stalking its "victim", beware cat will start a full speed assault.|
|Laying down, starring and not moving ||Cat is waiting for the right moment to attack something.|
|Looking up at a piece of furniture ||Cat is about to claim it.|
|Sneezing and coughing, low to ground||Hairball attack|
|Wide open eyes, staring||Processing information. It hears something and is trying to figure it out.|
|Pawing at paper ||wants to play or trying to figure out if it is a new litter box. Often cats will play with paper items.|
|Lying on your newspaper or book||Cat feels comfortable. It feels it is complete control.|
|Rubbing on things with face ||Kitty is marking the item as his/her property. This includes people. Cats leave their scent on these items.|
|Rubbing against your leg and purring||This means kitty has accepted you as a friend, or you have been forgiven for abandoning it.|
|Lying on back with stomach exposed||Utmost trust, extremely comfortable with the surroundings. Very relaxed. Cats normally protect their stomach, a great deal of trust has been established.|