As the ‘mother’ of seven cats, I am surrounded by felines daily. This makes me an expert on cats, but you don’t need seven to understand their language. One cat will be able to train you quite sufficiently.
There is the question mark tail that they greet you with, not to say, “How are you? Have you had a good day?” but to say, “Where have you been? And why is my bowl empty?”
There is the chirrup-type of purr, that little high-pitched gurgle deep in their throats. It means, “At last! You’re here! Adore me!” (Because cats need total adulation.)
There is the purr. Be it a murmur or a motorboat, it is one of the rare instances of positive feedback your cat will ever give you. Enjoy it while you can, because in the blink of an eye your lap could change from a comfy seat to a pin cushion.
And, finally, there is the hiss. This lets you and any other unwelcome being know that the cat does not wish to share breathing space. Bug off.
But that is not the way it is in my house. I have at least three cats that flunked Cat Language 101. They simply cannot hiss, growl or give a warning meow.
The first cat sounds like a small child blowing raspberries. “Pbbbfffft!” It sounds like she has a tongue two sizes too big for her mouth. The second cat snorts and the third cat sounds like she’s hawking up phlegm.
So you get these three lovely cats in one room and what you have is the feline version of the Three Stooges. Some days it sounds like an old man is dying in my kitchen when they all congregate in there.
It’s especially disconcerting when I’m trying to cook dinner. “Pbbbfffft! Snorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt! Hocccccccck!”
“Knock it off! You’re making me sick!”
This totally defies the idea that cats are dainty, well-mannered and well-groomed. They’re not. And if you have enough of them, you’ll see that they let themselves go and hang out on the sofa all day in front of the television with their fat bellies protruding.
You know all those naps they take? It’s just to get out of doing some work around the house. I have seven cats and a garage full of mice. Somebody isn’t pulling his weight around here.
So just when you start thinking about getting a dog, your cat drops a dead mouse at your feet, rubs up against your leg smiling at you with that enchanting Zen-cat expression that makes your heart warm and you forget all about that dog, what’s-his-name, and you vow to give this feline relationship one more try.