The ways in which humans communicate with each other seem almost limitless. We talk, we text, we email, we call each other on the phone. We give “significant looks” to those we know well. Animals are no less communicative, though I’ve yet to receive an email from a dog.
It always amazes me how much my own cat has to say. As I’ve mentioned before, she meows or makes some sort of vocalization from just about the moment I wake up until we’ve both decided to retire for the evening. She also has this odd ritual where she likes to wake me up at 3 a.m. with noises that sound like she’s completely lost. She’s not, she’s just sitting in the middle of the living room yowling for all she’s worth. She gives me a “significant look,” too, when I catch her at it — one that I would swear says, “What? I’m not doing anything weird at all, why are you staring at me?”
This morning she added a new sound that means something I can only guess at, but I’m pretty sure the hiss I got when I tried to gently encourage her through the door cannot be translated politely.
The animals I care for all have their individual ways of communicating with me, too. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not. Of course, if I should be so thoughtless as to eat lunch or take a shower in the presence of these animals, there is nothing subtle about it. I visit a cat that rarely ever makes a sound, but will get right up in my face (and my plate, if I’m not careful) and let me know that he wants attention immediately. I also stay at a house with a dog that sticks his head around the shower curtain to let me know he knows I’m in there and he’s waiting for me to get out and pay attention to him.
And then there’s one of my newer dog friends who, if I’m on the couch, he’s on top of me. Not at the other end of the couch or in his dog bed, but directly in my lap. Mind you, this dog is 45 pounds, so he’s bigger than my lap, but even though we’re still getting to know one another, I have no problem deciphering what he’s trying to tell me: “Attention. Now.”
Earlier this month, I was staying with a different dog, and it was the end of the day. It was frigid out, and he’s an old fella, so I (mistakenly) thought he wouldn’t want to go for a walk on a dark, cold evening. I sat down with some dinner and attempted to eat. This old guy came up next to me, sat down, and bayed loudly enough to startle me. Seems the old codger had had enough of sleeping and he wanted me to know it, and he thought my dinner could wait. He was right, of course. Far be it for me to deny the old guy a good walk!
Whether loudly or quietly, all animals seem to instinctively know how to communicate with us. I’ve read that cats only meow when communicating with bipeds, and that they use other means to communicate with other animals. My friend speculates that the cats are saying “Come hither, servant” to humans, and I’m pretty sure she’s correct. Until my cat learns to spell, though, I don’t think I’ll be getting a text from her telling me she’s out of food. I’m sure she’ll just follow me around and meow until I meet her demands.
(Sarah Caton owns All Paws Pet Sitting, which serves all of Lincoln County.)