You’re Not Listening
Back in the Old Country — well, okay, Oregon — occasionally we would need to skip town now and then, and leave our cats with our parents. Our mom once marveled at how talkative they were, which struck us as an odd thing to say, because of course they were talkative. We talked to our cats all the time. And they talked back.
It’s really not hard to understand cats. “I’m hungry” and “I want outside” and “I’m fucking pissed” pretty much runs the conversation. (With dogs, it’s all “Do you love me?”) Talk to them like a grownup — “That tabletop is my turf!” — they’ll get the message.
And listen to them. When cats talk, they’re trying to get your attention, using their voice because that’s how you do it. (Between themselves, a cold stare, some hisses and growls, and a twitchy tail are sufficient.) Cross-species communication is inevitably imperfect, but we’re all mammals here. A little empathy goes a long way.
(Birds confuse the shit out of us, by the way. No common ground.)
All this should be painfully obvious to anyone who’s spent serious quality time around cats. But cats also bear the burden of being cute, leading some people to treat them as delightful animatronic objects that lack souls.
For those people, there’s the new Catterbox Collar, which purports to provide real-time meow-to-English translation, in an accent of your choice. (Time it would take a cat to trash that infernal object in the shrubs: Two hours.) But if you’re not listening to begin with, what difference would words make?