A Purrfect Conversationalist

“Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it
ain ‘t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.” -Mark Twain

Most cat owners are able to interpret the range of meows their cat makes and believe it to
be the means cats use for communication, but meows are directed almost exclusively at
humans. In cat-to-cat communications the meow is used mainly between mother and kitten
and not between adult cats.

Cats which live with humans have learnt that a minimum of effort results in a maximum of
communication and have become very skilled at managing humans to get what they want -
food, shelter and human affection. When cats first began wandering into Egyptian
households thousands of years ago, it was probably the pleasant sounding cats that were
accepted into human society and even today it is the pleasant sounding cats which are
most likely to be adopted from pounds and shelters, while the demanding ones risk being
left behind.

Scientists have detected sixteen distinct feline vocal sounds and believe there are many
others that are inaudible to humans. It is known that cats are able to change the inflection
of the voice to indicate whether they are happy, sad, anxious, lost, looking for someone,
surprised, or even just keen to announce their arrival.

Humans can assign meaning to cat sounds because, through long association with cats,
they have learnt the connection between various sounds and behaviours.
Sounds rated as pleasant and less demanding tend to be shorter and start high and end
low, “MEEE-ow.”

Sounds interpreted as more urgent or less pleasant are longer with more emphasis on the
lower frequencies, “Mee-O-O-O-O-O-W”

As well as the meow, cats use a range of other vocalisations to express their opinion.
Hisses, growls and screams are usually made by a frightened or angry cat that feels
threatened and wants to discourage attack.

Cats which are permanently confined indoors make chirping and and chattering sounds,
often accompanied by rapid clicking of the teeth, when looking through windows at birds
which are beyond reach.

The way a cat makes its purr is a mystery to scientists but it is thought that it is meant as a
means off communication, although scientists are now considering it may have a deeper
meaning -a type of cat ‘mantra’. Mother cats purr while feeding kittens and the kittens purr
along with her. Purring is most often heard when the cat is being petted or stroked by a
human and so is interpreted as being the sign of a happy cat. However, cats also purr
under stress or when they are in pain. The pitch of the purr varies according to the cat’s
mood. Scientists have measured the cat’s purr at a frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz
which are the sound frequencies shown in medical tests to improve bone density and
promote healing.

Cat owners who feel relaxed and happy with a purring cat on their lap may just be gaining
more than companionship.

Article courtesy of Pet-Net