Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Author's Cat is a Talker

Chatty Cats, Blessed Creatures

When I think of talkative cats, fictitious feline characters come to mind, for example, “The Cat in the Hat” was my favorite intelligent chatty cat when I was a child. I still remember the headless wonder in Alice’s adventures (another bright feline), her talking friend the Cheshire Cat. And, of course, Felix and Sylvester have intrigued me. But also fascinating are our countless real, live vocal cats who don’t exactly talk like we humans do, but still are very talky.
Zen, my affectionate and vocal Siamese-mix

Some people aren’t accustomed to the chatty feline who has something to say. I, for instance, recall years ago I was at my neighbor’s pet-sitting when first introduced to a very gabby cat. Initially I thought he was hungry, but his bowl was full! When I opened the front and back doors, blue-eyed Charley looked up at me—he didn’t want to anywhere. Yet his meows persisted. I tried cradling the cat like an infant. Still he continued to whine. When my neighbor returned I alerted her, “Something’s wrong with Charley! He won’t stop crying!” My neighbor laughed. “That’s Charley’s way. He’s Siamese. A talker.”
As time passed, I found myself at the local humane society in dire want of a pet cat. It was a toss-up between a gray-and-white longhair and an orange domestic shorthair. Gandalf, the aggressive gray-and-white feline who spoke up again and again, won his freedom. His perseverance had me at first sight. It was as though he were saying, “Hey! I’m the one you want! Take me.”
After years of his talk I had grown to respect Gandalf because he speaks his mind. Sometimes his voice is suggesting that he wants something NOW, and other times his cat talk is communicating that everything is under control—sweet contentment. But best of all, if either of us is in the mood, we’ll indulge in a dangling conversation.

There are talkers and there are talkers. A few years after adopting Gandalf, I was smitten by a litter of adorable Manx/Siamese kittens and took one home without much though. Within a week I discovered my new tailless Ashley was going to be the most talkative cat I have ever known. Yet, I must admit, a while ago Ashley’s loquacious ways were not appreciated by everyone; and yes, on occasion even I thought her consistent babbling was a bit much.
These days, after discussions with experts on vocal cats, I appreciate talkers more than ever. Why? Because I understand her need to talk. You may already know whether or not talkers are your cup of tea. If they aren’t—stay clear of these breeds: Oriental Shorthair, Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Ragdolls, and yes, the Siamese is probably the most outspoken of all.
According to cat experts, there are more than a dozen voice patterns classified in groups. But it’s the vowel pattern that is associated with care, soliciting, and goal frustration. It’s important to remember to look for a physical problem first, and if it’s not physical, experts say, try for the psychological connection. Yes, some talkers are smart and can manipulate you to cater to their whim, whether it’s kitty treats to extra TLC.

The bottom line, cats that are just talkative—like some humans with a gift of gab—aren’t necessarily for everyone. For example, when I was at a friend’s house something didn’t feel right. I felt very comfortable in her loft apartment with healthy house plants, beautiful Oriental rugs, Degas paintings—and to top it off, a handsome Himalayan. A few hours passed, and I realized that although there was a cat present, which made me feel right at home, it was too darn quiet. I was going stir crazy. I actually missed my talking cats. Alex’s yowling to go outdoors, in my study, Gandalf’s aloof way of saying, “Hey, I’m in the mood for a chat. Can we talk?” And yes, even Ashley’s incessant chattering. So, when I came home that day it was clear. I am a talkative person, and I enjoy the company of articulate people. So it should be no surprise that I prefer my cats to be vocal. I’ll take a talker any day--especially when I'm all alone and working on a book.

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