It’s said that cats don’t communicate to each other verbally. They meow to us because they notice how we talk to them and what happens when we focus on them that way. Cats find that interesting or advantageous things follow after we speak to them: a treat, a meal, a gentle scratch someplace they can’t reach. They learn to meow to us to ask for what they want or to participate in what we do, and we bask in their desire to fit into our lives, comforted by their hard-won attention.
Kitty will ask for a bowl of food or that I get off the computer and let her sit in my lap. She’ll mew through the window to greet me when I come home, or to show concern when steam precedes me out the bathroom door after a shower. She entreats me through the bedroom door when she thinks I’ve overslept and need to come out and feed her, maybe play. Our conversations then go back and forth, her voice rising and falling on syllables that vary, saying things I’m sure I can follow. I answer, calming her if it’s much too early, or assuring her that I’m on my way and only need a moment or two to dress.
But there are times, an increasing number of times, when Kitty stands or sits in a hallway or a corner of a room, looking up and meowing in an earnest, sometimes agitated voice. As I watch her from a far room or close vantage point I’ve crept to without her notice, she engages something I can’t see. Not a bird teasing her through a window — she chirps at those. Not a bug or insect crawling up a wall so slow that she could bat it down — she doesn’t meow before doing that.
I’ve watched Kitty speak to something that reminds her enough of a human that she wants to talk to it, asking or demanding something I’m powerless to understand, perhaps responding to a provocation I’m unable to hear. At those times, I wonder what that something is. When those moments pass, I work hard to forget the feeling that something shocking is at play, something I don’t want to know.
Avoidance may be the wrong way to go according to Stephen King stories or the kind of movies that glut the market at Halloween, but it’s the best I can do without being privy to the plot.
I wish I really did understand Kitty’s language. I think.