5 Words and Phrases My Cat Totally Understands


Sometimes Cosmo totally ignores me when I’m speaking to him. You know the routine — typical cat behavior. The interesting thing? There are certain words and phrases he clearly understands. I get that some of the recognition is based on my tone of voice, but I swear he just “gets” some things. The things he wants to “get,” that is. Cats like to call the shots … as if we didn’t already know. It’s called “selective listening.”

Here are a few examples the phrases Cosmo completely understands.

1. Lie down

"How can I prolong this situation before I actually have to listen?"
“How can I prolong this situation before I actually have to listen?”

Okay, so he first pretends he doesn’t understand this one, and then he eventually does his little turning-in-circles thing and grudgingly curls up. This scenario usually happens when he wants to stand on me or pace up and down the length of the bed when I’m trying to sleep. I’ll say, “Lie down, Cosmo,” and he’ll stare at me. Then I’ll repeat the phrase at least a few times before he gets the message and concedes. That is, after I’m on the receiving end of a fair amount of sass.

2. Treat?

Feet at rest, but soon to be racing toward the kitchen.
Feet at rest, but soon to be racing toward the kitchen.

Based on conversations with other cat lovers, this word seems to be the gold standard of human words that cats understand. That hard “t” is what does it, I think. Even without the shaking of the bag, the mere mention of the word sends Cosmo racing in circles until I think he’ll either collapse or throw up. Either way, he’d still want the treats. Guaranteed.

He recently acquired a new cat tree, but I soon discovered I can’t say cat “tree,” because of its similarity to the word that sends him into fits. Now I have to stop myself and call it the cat tower. Yes, it’s still the hard “t,” but it doesn’t sound as clipped as “tree.” This is just one example of the very important things I have to deal with on a daily basis.

3. Where’s your ball?

"You're telling me you can't see the ball?"
“You’re telling me you can’t see the ball?”

The tone of this question is certainly part of why he gets it nearly every time it’s spoken. He has a love affair with crinkly ball toys. When he looks bored, I sometimes ask him, “Where’s your ball?” and I look and sound super excited about the whole “ball” thing. He immediately perks up and surveys the room, searching for one of the 279 crinkly balls that are scattered across the floor. He’s probably thinking, “Seriously? You can’t see one of these 279 crinkly balls? They’re all over the place. Maybe you should make an appointment with an eye doctor.”

4. You want some dinner?

"Yes! The time has arrived!"
“Yes! The time has arrived!”

About an hour before dinner time, Cosmo switches gears into the not-so-patiently-waiting frame of mind. He paces and stares, hoping I’ll fill his belly sooner than later. He sits by his food dish and looks into its emptiness, willing the Fancy Feast to appear. It’s a production. So when the magic hour arrives and I say, “You want some dinner?,” his head just about pops off like a Champagne cork.

5. Ready for bed?

"I'm ready to watch you brush your teeth. Let's go."
“I’m ready to watch you brush your teeth. Let’s go.”

Cosmo’s inner clock is in full effect right around my usual bedtime. That’s when he commences with the staring routine and eventually, if he sees I’m not heading toward the bedroom, he flattens himself against me, figuring time will pass more quickly if he sleeps. Hey, I sometimes use that logic. Naps can be excellent tools, friends.

When I begin moving, turning off lights, and fluffing the throw pillows, he wakes up and looks at me, hoping I’ll say those magic words: “Ready for bed?” Then he stands, stretches, and makes his way to the bathroom to watch me brush my teeth and wash my face. Sometimes we’ll use our respective toilets in tandem. Isn’t that adorable? Haha. Then it’s into the bedroom to fight off the relentless pillow-jacker (still talking about Cosmo). I wonder if he’d respond to the word “pillow?” I think he might.

Are there words or phrases your cat recognizes? Tell us about them in the comments!

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