Yesterday at 3:30 a.m., I learned that my calico cat, Phoenix, can shriek. Not yowl or even caterwaul — this was a full-blown, horror-movie-quality, OMG-they’re-right-behind-you multisyllabic scream.
“Phoenix!” I shouted from the bedroom.
“Mow?” she asked, as though she had not been channeling demons only seconds ago. She trotted into the bedroom and curled up next to me to sleep.
Ah, cat behavior.
This latest demonstration of vocal prowess is the capstone achievement in Phoenix’s four-year quest to get the last word. She’s a calico; it might even be said that she has tortitude. She’s sassy, needy, and demanding — when she wants attention, she wants it NOW. My boyfriend once described her as a “stage-five clinger.”
When she doesn’t get what she wants — be it snuggles, food, chin scritchies, a clean litter box, your lap, your food, your full undivided attention — she will tell you about it. And she will not. Shut. Up.
Here are five possible reasons why our cats insist on talking our ears off.
Disclaimer: Excessive vocalization could be a sign of a health problem, particularly if accompanied by changes in appetite, energy, or litter box habits. Similarly, if your usually quiet cat is suddenly waking you up every night, it’s probably time to see your vet.
1. Your cat wants food
Thanks to my vet’s recent declaration that my cats are too fat, I’ve put them both on a diet. That means no more free feeding and a limited amount of wet and dry food each day. Bubba Lee Kinsey, my 11-year-old gray tabby, has been stoically enduring this calorie restriction like a champ.
Phoenix, however? Not so much. Seemingly every time I walk in the kitchen, she’s right behind me: “Moow-ooow-ooow-oooooooowwww!” These vocalizations are multifaceted and complex, containing several syllables and what sounds, at times, like a Boston accent.
Translation: “Please, please, please, please, please, just a little, please, please, please, now, do it, please, I’ll never ask again, just this once, please.”
2. Your cat wants attention
So you’re finally gonna get caught up on Game of Thrones, are you? It’s getting really good, and you’re really invested in it, and you’d hate to be interrupted, because, OMG, did that really just happen?
BOOM. Cat on the coffee table.
“MRRRR-OWOWOW,” she demands, comletely blocking your view.
Translation: “HOW DARE YOU. I AM HERE. ME. NOW.”
3. Your cat has a song stuck in her head
You heard that insidious earworm “Piano Man” by Billy Joel playing in the grocery store while you ate lunch. Then you totally started singing it in the bathroom at the office later, didn’t you?
Same thing can happen to a cat.
4. Your cat sees a ghost
Sometimes Phoenix will stare up at the ceiling and meow urgently at nothing. Even more disturbing: Sometimes Bubba Lee Kinsey sits beside her and stares up at the EXACT SAME PLACE.
There is much anecdotal evidence that cats can interact with the supernatural world; because my own experiences back up these assertions, I shall go ahead and accept them as truth. It’s a basic equation: My beliefs + Internet “facts” = TRUTH.
5. Your cat wants to annoy you
Remember that “quiet game” your parents always wanted to play on family road trips? You know, the one where you see who can go the longest without talking? The parental unit who is driving usually initiates it after you and your siblings have spent the last two hours arguing over who gets the last bag of Doritos and punching each other every time you see a car with one headlight out.
Sometimes, just to get under your parents’ skin, didn’t you ask the rules of the quiet game after it had already “officially” begun? Like, “Does it count if I sing along to the radio,” or, “What if I have to go to the bathroom?”
Well, sometimes your cat sits in the middle of the living room and meows incessantly for precisely this reason.
About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.
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