I’ve read that cats (and most animals) have very distinct cries and, like human babies, can alert us to their needs based on the varying sounds. That is, according to an article on PetFinder, if we can understand their specific cries. Some sources even go so far as to try and describe the “meaning behind the meow.” While the formal research is unclear, I can confirm from personal experience, without a doubt, that my cats have very distinct voices that they use to describe very specific needs.
At 4:55 this morning, I was awakened by a quiet, pleading “meow-mm” coming from the animal’s bedroom across the hall. I laid there for a moment while my eyes came into focus and heard it again. I knew, immediately, that it was Zoey and that she had thrown up a hairball in her bed.
So, to back up for a moment, you must understand that our five pets – two dogs and three cats – have their own “bedroom” equipped with dog crates, a cat tree, a changing table for Zoey’s supplies, and a customized closet that houses two litter boxes. It’s the equivalent to a nursery for a human baby but with slightly different furniture! Zoey has a small crate stacked on top of a larger dog crate that we put her in each night so that she is safely tucked away from cords and other hazards that a paraplegic cat can run into when unsupervised. She has a super comfy bed, her food, and water in the crate so she’s quite content to nap and relax there perched high above the other earth dwellers.
Back to 4:55 AM. I jump out of bed knowing that the cries will grow increasingly louder as she tests the volume necessary to wake me. As I enter the room, she gives a quiet shriek “meow-rmm” and it’s confirmed: hairball on her bed. So, I address her needs, clean up the hairball, express her bladder for good measure (I figure, I am up and she can always go potty), and get her situated back in bed. She quickly gets comfortable and is back to sleep probably within minutes.
As I laid back down in bed, I thought a lot about Zoey’s cries and what I have learned about her needs/wishes/demands. She’s very vocal.
When she was a kitten, Zoey would literally make a cry that sounded like “nowww” when I would ask “When do you want to eat, Zoey?” It was so fun that everyone who came over would make me ask her that question before she was fed. I was pretty sure it was some type of Pavlovian response. But, then as time went by, I discovered that her vocabulary had increased as did her vocal range. She can plead for attention “MEH-OWW” from one of the dogs and she can scream to alert us to an immediate need “EHHHHHH” – as I type this, it occurs to me that I should record and post video. I will work on that.
In any case, my Zoey is a talker. More communicative than either of my other cats. And, I don’t mind having conversations with her.
This is an angry Zoey. She hated her wheelchair. Here you can see that her ears are nearly pinned back and her eyes are on fire. What you cannot hear is the sound of her low growl, coming from the depths of her body…and the sound of my hysteric laughter as I took the photo. I knew then that she would never use this special chair. August 2007.