Category: Kittens

Have You Decoded Your Cat’s Meows?

We’ve learned a lot about how cats see the world in the past two or three years thanks to some breakthrough research.

We know the meow originates as a way kittens communicate with their mothers, and adults generally don’t meow to each other. In fact, the iconic vocalization — which is the cat’s actual name in some languages — is a feline’s attempt to communicate with us, their human caretakers.

Give the little stinkers the credit they deserve: They know we don’t read tail, whisker, ear or even feline facial expressions very well, and they know we communicate verbally, so they meow to us.

We also know house cats develop exclusive “languages” with their favorite humans, forming personal and proprietary ways of exchanging information.

They’re even capable of meowing at the same frequency as a human baby’s cries by embedding the infant-like call in their purrs: Because we humans are hard-wired by evolution to respond urgently to those frequencies, our feline friends quickly realize their “solicitation purrs” are the most effective way to get our attention.

Clearly they’re manipulating us, not the other way around.

Have you decoded your cat’s repertoire of meows and other vocalizations? In addition to the meow — which comes in several different types and forms — cats can chirp, trill, chatter, growl, chirrup and purr.

Buddy is a very vocal kitty, and he likes to use trills to communicate. Here are Buddy’s favorite “words” and sentiments:

Hrrrruuuhh – “Okay then”/”I have no idea what you’re talking about”/”Sorry, not interested”

Brrrrr! Brrrrt! – “I don’t like this!” or “I don’t know about this!” (Heavy trill sound.)

(The brrrrt sound goes all the way back to Bud’s babyhood, when he wasn’t litter box trained and got nervous every time he had to eliminate. To this day, he makes that sound when he’s nervous and unsure of what to do.)

Brrrrruuuup! – “I’m fast! Watch me run! I’m running!”

(A vocalization that serves as a prelude to an energy-expending burst of activity.)

Rrrrooow! – “No!”/An expression of annoyance. May also mean “Get away from me!” in certain contexts.

Ahhhhmmmm – “Interesting!” High-pitched.

Hurrrrr – Affirmation. “Bud, do you want turkey tonight?” “Hurrrrr!”

Mmmmohhh! – “Oh, but I want to!” (Reserved for when he’s told not to do something, like scratch the couch.)

Excited chatter – About to receive catnip or one of his favorite foods.

Mrrrump! – Straining or jumping down. Often heard as he hits the ground when jumping down from a couch or bed.

Nyeeea – Okay, I’m awake!

Mmmyeoowww! – I WANT FOOD!

Mrrrrrrrooww! – I WANT FOOD!

Mrrooww! Mrrooww! – FOOD NOW!

Bah! Bah! – You jerk!

Mnyakk ak ak! – A chattering sound. “I see birds! I see birds and I can’t attack them!”

Incessant crying – Open the door so I can come in, and after five minutes I’ll cry again until you let me out. Then I’ll do it again until you let me in…

You, dear reader, have your own private language with your cat(s) too, whether you’re consciously aware of it or not. If you haven’t given it much thought, pay close attention to the sounds your cat makes and the ways you respond…and don’t get too freaked out when you realize who really runs your home. 🙂

littlebabybuddy
“I’m an OG brrrruppp-er, dude.”

One of My Favorite Kitten Memories

Whenever I look at photos of Baby Buddy, I try to remind myself there was a whole lot of crazy that came with the cute.

The surreptitious pooping underneath my bed. The relentless nightly war waged against my ankles and feet. The incessant meowing as if he’d reconciled classical and quantum physics and needed to tell me all about it right this very instant.

Actually he hasn’t quite given up that last hobby. He still tackles weighty subjects in minutes-long soliloquies delivered in meow, but he’s generally less insistent unless the topic involves food.

Buddy the Baby

One of my fondest memories of Baby Bud involves that hyper talkativeness combined with boundless kitten energy and Buddy’s unique brand of crazy.

It started with bedtime. I was settling in for sleep and Bud was making it clear he would have none of it. So I sighed, making sure my feet were fully wrapped in the armor of a blanket to render kitten claws and teeth ineffective.

One of his favorite moves as a kitten was to wait until I was falling asleep, my heart rate slowing, before going kamikaze on my feet. He’d listen for the first snore, chomp down on my toes and gleefully flee before I realized what was happening, happily trilling and chirping after another successful ambush.

This time Buddy had something else in mind. As soon as the lights were off and I was settled in bed, he took off like the Roadrunner, ricocheting off the walls and yelling out “BRRRRRRUUUPPP!!!! BRRRRRRUUUPPP!!!” as he pinballed around the room.

This went on for several minutes until, without warning, Buddy skidded to a halt on my back, meowed the kitten equivalent of “OH YEAH!” and collapsed on top of me with an epic sigh of contentment. He was asleep within seconds.

I can’t do justice in words to how funny it was, except to say I was laying there belly-laughing with my kitten on top of me, afraid I was going to wake him up.

At the time it was also validation. This kitten was my first-ever pet, and he was clearly a happy little dude. That made me happy too.

I miss Baby Buddy, but I love adult Buddy even more precisely because I have more memories like this one to fondly look back on…and because adult Buddy mercifully doesn’t treat my feet like scratching posts when I’m asleep!

Baby Buddy

Adorable Smiling Kitten Proves Cats Appreciate Being Rescued

Do cats understand and appreciate when humans rescue them?

It’s a question that comes up often, even though cat owners servants are quick to answer in the affirmative based on their own experiences with thankful felines.

Thanks to a tiny rescue kitten named Blossom and her beaming smile, any doubts can be officially put to rest. Here’s Blossom happily posing for the camera in the home of her foster mom, Lauren Boutz of New Mexico:

Blossom the Smiling Kitten
“Get my good side! Got it? Good!”

Blossom and her two sisters are receiving round-the-clock care from Boutz and her boyfriend, who have taken over mom duties for the orphaned trio.

The grateful kitty’s sunny mug has been shared a few thousand times since Boutz shared the photos to Facebook. Like all good models, Blossom has several looks.

Blossom the Smiling Kitten
“My other good side!”

 

Blossom
“You cannot resist my cuteness…play with me!”
Blossom the Smiling Kitten
A natural in front of the camera.

Now if we could only get a certain grouch around here to smile…Why so serious all the time, Bud?

Buddy Buddy Buddy!
Zoolander never smiled either!

An Early Stocking Stuffer for Cat Lovers

Walter Chandoha might not be a household name, but he’s a legend among photography enthusiasts and — most importantly for readers of this blog — a true OG of feline photography.

Chandoha, who took more than 90,000 photographs of photogenic kitties, passed away earlier this year at the ripe old age of 98. We don’t know the secrets to the photographer’s longevity, but it’s a good bet all that time spent with cute cats was a major contributor.

The New Jersey native and NYU graduate didn’t set out to become the most celebrated cat photographer. His work appeared on hundreds of magazine covers before the fluffy little carnivores pulled him into their world:

In 1949, Walter Chandoha adopted a stray kitten in New York. When he began taking pictures of his new pet, Loco, he was so inspired by the results that he started photographing kittens from a local shelter, thereby kickstarting an extraordinary career that would span seven decades

Now those photos are collected in a book called, appropriately, Cats: Photographs 1942-2018.

chandohacats1
A pair of Chandoha’s kitty muses.

Fashion has Helmut Newton, architecture has Julius Shulman, and cat photography has Walter Chandoha. In 1949, his encounter with a stray kitten blossomed into a career that elevated feline portraiture to an art form. This is a tribute not just to these beguiling creatures but also to a remarkable photographer who passed away this year at the age of 98; and whose compassion can be felt in each and every frame.

Walter Chandoha Cat Photography
Hello, kitten!
Walter Chandoha cat photography
“Why are humans always putting us in baskets?”
Walter Chandoha
Chandoha and one of his feline models in the 1950s.
Walter Chandoha Cat Photography
Walter Chandoha was photographing adventure cats before it was cool.
Walter Chandoha Cat Photography
“Hey, get outta my milk, tiny human!”

Chandoha’s “Cats” and two other collections of his cat photographs (Walter Chandoha’s Book of Kittens & Cats, Walter Chandoha: Cat Photographer) can be found at Amazon.

Buddy
“Hey! What about me? I want to be in a cat photography book!”

Study: Cats Really Do View Us As Parents

In a discovery that won’t surprise most feline servants, scientists have concluded cats really do get attached to us even if they have a funny way of not showing it.

The internet is abuzz this week with news of a study that indicates a cat’s bond with his human is much like a child’s bond with a parent.

The research, conducted by a team at Oregon State University, sought to gauge how attached cats are to their owners by putting them in a strange situation and seeing how they react with their humans present and without.

In the study a cat is led into a strange room accompanied by his or her human. After two minutes the human exits and the cat is left alone in the unfamiliar room. Another two minutes later, the cat’s servant returns.

It’s the way the cat acts when its human is away — and how it adjusts when the owner returns — that interests researchers. And sure enough, domestic feline behavior followed a familiar pattern:

  1. With owner/servant in the room: “What is this strange place? What are we doing here?”
  2. Human exits: “Oh no! Don’t leave me in here! I don’t know what this place is! Come back! Hey, come back here! This place looks, smells and feels funny. I’m scared!”
  3. Human returns: “Ah! Okay, much better. I’m just gonna rub up against you so I feel better. You know, this room isn’t so bad after all, is it? You look pretty calm. That means I should be calm, right?”

Although it might seem strange that scientists can learn so much from such a simple experiment, the result is important because the way cats react is precisely the way small kids and dogs react to strange situations.

Cat Hugs His Human
“I love you, furless human, and I’m not just saying that ’cause you feed me!”

It’s all about what psychologists call secure attachment: When a child is bonded with her parent, the mere presence of that parent lends calm and comfort in a strange situation.

Without mom or dad present, the kid is unsure, cautious and maybe even frightened. But with mom or dad in the room, the child feels comfortable and safe enough to go exploring and isn’t intimidated by the new environment. Psychologists call it a “secure base test” because it means kids use their parents as a safe “base” from which to explore.

Two decades ago, researchers broke new ground when experiments showed dogs behave the same way, drawing comfort and feeling more secure with their owners nearby.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” study author Kristyn Vitale said. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

Another Cat Enjoying A Hug
Must be nice to have a cat who enjoys hugs!

It took another 20 years for scientists to try the same experiment with cats, mostly because felines have a reputation — not undeserved — of being very difficult to work with.

That is, cats don’t always feel like playing nice and participating in a study because, well, they’re cats.

This latest study isn’t the first time researchers have tried to gauge feline attachment to their humans, but it’s the most expansive study of the phenomenon to date: The Oregon State University team conducted the test with some 80 kittens younger than eight months, then repeated the same experiment with adult cats.

The idea was to determine if cats grow out of their emotional attachment. The results suggest they don’t, which lends credence to the theory that domestic cats under the care of humans are, in some respects, kittens for life.

“Once an attachment style has been established between the cat and its caregiver, it appears to remain relatively stable over time, even after a training and socialization intervention,” Vitale said. “Cats that are insecure can be likely to run and hide or seem to act aloof. There’s long been a biased way of thinking that all cats behave this way. But the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security. Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed out.”

For those of us currently employed as cat servants, that last bit is important: Cats most definitely do pick up on our moods even when it seems like they don’t.

To read more, check out a 2015 study by Italian scientists that found cats look to their owners for emotional cues about how to respond to new situations, and a 2017 by the same Oregon State University team that found cats value human interaction just as much as they value food.

Buddy Angry
“Buddy doesn’t do hugs, okay? Buddy speaks in the third person, Buddy meows insistently for dinner, but Buddy does not do hugs. Deal with it, human.”