Sunday, 23 January 2011

Not So Sage Sunday: A Muse About Mews

It's Sunday again, so here I am. I apologize for posting a little later today, but Gregg's been sleeping most of the day...poor thing hasn't been feeling well. He went out last night, came back smelling of something bittersweet, and seems to have been feeling awful ever since. I have no sympathy, as long as it isn't genuine sickness. He seems well enough to post now, though, so here comes the stuff that passes for my wisdom and insight.

Today, I want to talk about something both obvious and strange...namely, mewing. Today's offering is apt to be more musing and thoughtful than wise or insightful, I'm afraid. Some of us - cats and people, I've heard Gregg attempt it sometimes - do it a lot, while others don't. I'd class myself as one of the quiet ones, unless some other cat is trying to pester me or stake out my house as their own of course. Ming, so recently departed, would mew at pretty much anything, including things only he cared about (like towels, doors and the full food bowl). It's something I've always wondered about.

I keep myself fairly quiet when I'm being touched, but am happy to purr to show my appreciation. I've heard that some cats will even mew for a human while they're being stroked or cuddled, and I wonder why this is...don't they feel that their proximity and purr is good enough? I'll also greet new humans with a plaintive meow or two, but Ming was absolutely effusive with certain people (especially Gregg)...quite honestly, that kitten wouldn't shut up! My greeting is to let whoever it is know that I know they're there and that I intend to be friendly. I usually won't rub legs and ankles right away, but prefer to stand near a place underneath which I can hide, such as a couch or table, while the new human or humans get settled. Michael, mentioned in last week's post, was very strange, as I may have said...rubbing ankles, purring, mewing and even hissing for no good reason! I'll also mew for food when Gregg's in the kitchen, whether I have food at hand or not, but I know a lot of cats who do that...we just can't help ourselves sometimes.

What makes me wonder is why more cats aren't like me. Mother cats will talk to kittens, and kittens to their mother, with lots of meows, and when cats want to fight they'll sometimes growl and scream at one another...but otherwise, we don't use these noises with one another. Why is each of us different with humans? What makes one cat very chatty and another nearly silent? What makes one cat greet humans while another will only meow loudly in the kitchen? And what, pray tell, makes a cat make any sound at all besides purring while they're being touched? Humans wouldn't understand even if they could mew like we can - which they can't, though goodness knows they try too hard - so are cats trying too hard to communicate? For that matter, why are humans often pleased to hear cats mew when they don't understand a word? It's just a little sound most of the time, and a good solid purr is much much nicer.

That's a lot of questions, I know, and most of them probably don't have a general answer that will fit them properly. It's just something to ponder on, that's all. It might be another level of the trainable behaviour humans expect of us, I suppose. I know it is to a small extent with me. Because Gregg's eyes don't work, he doesn't always know exactly where I am if I'm lying still; my collar gives me away if I jump, move quickly or shake my head as I often do when stretching. I will often mew very softly - more a mutter than a meow, actually - to let him know I'm lying nearby, whether I'm in the middle of the floor, sprawled on his bed or draped over the back of his comfortable chair. I've learned that it's good if I do this because otherwise I might get kicked, leaned on or, worst of all, sat on! It's happened before, ladies and gentlemen...though usually it's a matter of his backside coming toward me, brushing me and giving me enough time to scamper. He's never actually squished me fully that I can remember, except when he stepped on two of my feet as a kitten. I was younger and sillier then, lying flat in the middle of the kitchen floor, and I guess he had no way of knowing I was there. In any case, a good portion of my vocalizations are at least partially to let Gregg know where I am or, if he seems to know that already, that I'm awake nearby and ready for more petting. Aside from food and greeting, that's about the only mewing I do.

...No, wait a moment. I have to be honest. Off and on for pretty much all of my life, I've tried to talk to things. I try to do it when no one will pay me any mind, but I've probably been found out by now. It happens rarely, but I've tried to converse with everything from the faucet in the bathtub to a plastic bag blowing in a breeze. Oh, and birds...though I fail miserably every time I try to make them understand how much I want to chase them. Do any of you other cats have strange habits regarding the noises you make, and do any of you have any idea why we bother? It's been eleven years and I still can't quite figure myself out.
I think I've rambled quite enough for today. I'm sorry to those who might have expected a more...intelligent entry, but I was having a chat with Gregg's curtains this morning while he tried to sleep and decided I wanted to talk about the commonness - and strangeness - of cats mewing. If any of you have much to say on the subject, feel free to let me know. We all might learn a thing or two.


Katnip Lounge said...

Grayce: I talk when there's either food or petting involved!
Rupert: I sound like a chimpanzee talking to Mommy...I go "eh eh eh eh eh" and she talks back and then it's my turn again.
The Baby: I talk a lot to myself...I say one syllable, "meh"
May Ling: I'm part Siamese and I talk all the time...even in my sleep!
The rest of us are mostly food talkers, and chittering at birds. Oh, and Johnny moans at night dragging his toys around!

Old Kitty said...

Awwww Charlie my cat has the tiniest smallest meow ever and he rarely uses it. My previous kitties were all different. My Ol Girl hardly meowed as well. Her brother however meowed the house down at every opportunity! He was also a great purrer!!!

It's great that all kitties communicate differently!!! Take care

Torie said...

I suppose cats are like us-some of us are more talkative than others. Who would have thought you could get so much about mewing in one post!


Sweet Praline said...

I talk to my mom all of the time but she doesn't listen to me!

The Lee County Clowder said...

Most of us are pretty quiet. (Mary Read has a bunch of grumbles and rumbles she uses when she is settling down for a nap, but no one has a clue what those mean to her, so we won't count those.)

But Coco, the One Who Came Before us, was a serious meower. Coco and The Food Source would meow back and forth all the time.