Monday, May 17, 2010 2:15 PM

Conversations With Your Cat

Do you talk to your cat? Most cat owners do (so do dog owners, by the way), so don't be embarrassed. Does your cat answer you when you speak to him? If so, you are one of the elite group of people that regularly have conversations with their cats.

Many people who talk to their cats don't realize that it is very easy to teach their pet to respond to their speech. It is well known, for instance, that certain breeds like the Siamese are particularly talky, sometimes to the point of annoyance. For those of us with chatty cats, we recognize that having our cats "answer" our questions only highlights the close bond we enjoy with these intelligent animals. While it is true that some cats are naturally talkative, it is also true that any cat can be trained to "converse" with its owner.

Our cats are very communicative, especially the Bear. He will seem to be asleep, but will sense when I walk by and greet me with a faint, "Brrrriiiiinnngg?" Usually, I will respond by petting him, which encourages further comments. Although I suspect our passel has Siamese somewhere in their lineage because of their triangular faces, I also know that we actively encouraged this back-and-forth chatting behavior and that is the real reason that they "speak" to us.

Try this yourself: Start the training when your cat is in a naturally chatty mood, say, around mealtime. As you are preparing his meal, pause and ask him a question. It could be anything; it's the upward lilt at the end that prompts your cat to respond. Repeat this training at other times when he is receptive, like when he is looking for attention. Once your cat understands what is expected of him, you'll be able to start up a conversation at almost any time. Just for fun, see how long you can keep him responding to your questions - some cats won't give up until you do!

At Miss P.'s house for brunch, we recently met some friends of hers who shared their "cat chat" story. The husband, D., recounted how he would get up early for work and shut himself in the bathroom to quietly get ready. One day, his wife's pet cat demanded entry and started a new routine: He would sit on the closed toilet seat and converse with D. until he was done shaving and so forth. After D. left, the cat would wait until the wife, C., took her morning bath and repeated the scenario. It was a great story, and both husband and wife obviously enjoyed this activity immensely. No training was necessary for this cat - he initiated the chats himself. This is just another example why we call our pets "companion" animals!
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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