I think we have the smartest cat that ever existed. I say that having done no research and having had only three cats in my life. Penelope is a chatty cat. No, “chatty” is not the right word. Mostly she kvetches. We hear variations on a theme of whine throughout the day, and sometimes late into the night.
We try to interpret her vocalizations, and there are books available on that topic, but there’s never been a cat who read the book and agreed with the interpretations or loudly proclaimed, “This is poppycock!” (in feline-ese, of course).
I talk to her many times throughout the day. Sometimes she just stops what she’s doing and stares at me. It’s disconcerting because she can out-stare me by several minutes. But most of the time, her reaction is “Mew. Mew. Mew. MEW!” (Translation: “Why are you talking to me instead of playing with me?”)
When Penelope is grousing, and it’s at—or past—her feeding time, I’ll say, “Do you want some FOOD?” Her response is a very loud “MEOW!” I’m sure she knows what I’m asking her. But, being a cat, she’ll often walk up to the food I’ve put before her and touch it with her nose, then step back, looking at it as if it’s a dish of poison. After making several attempts to bury it (if you’re a cat owner, you know the gesture), she usually goes back and laps it up. I’m convinced this is a ritual designed to let us know who’s the alpha creature in the house.
Penelope’s most common sounds are “mrrrows” rather than “meows,” although she throws in one of those occasionally. And if her immediate need isn’t met, the mrrrows get louder and tinged with anguish. I can’t stand to hear babies and cats cry, so I’m quick to call out to her, “What do you want?” in the hope that she’ll understand and answer in a way I can interpret. She doesn’t and I can’t. But we’ve learned that if we ignore the plaintive cries, she’ll eventually get bored with her own caterwauling and settle down for a snooze.
Penelope can also ask questions. Her “Mrow?” comes after we’re doing something that puzzles her, like ending a play session and walking away. My interpretation is, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” I could be wrong though. Maybe she’s more humble than we think. Maybe what she’s really saying is, “Why did you stop? Was it something I did?” Yeah, right. I have to remember this is a cat, not a dog.
But my favorite Penelope expression is not vocal at all. When I give her a slow blink (the equivalent of a kiss to a cat), she now slowly blinks back. It’s a gesture that makes it easy to forget all her whines of the day. It’s like a young child saying “I love you, Mommy,” right after you caught her scribbling on the coffee table. Who can resist? I can’t. I love that furry little kvetch!