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IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m not a crazy cat woman and I’m not insane (as far as I know). Please bear this in mind while you read the following.

I like to talk to the cats. It’s not as crazy as it seems. They respond to tone of voice and sometimes to certain words. It’s possible to teach a cat its name and some basic words (though, being cats, they may choose to ignore you). I wrote a post a while ago about this process of cross species communication.

Anyway, trying to teach them our words is all very well, but I also try to chat to them in ‘cat’. I try to repeat their friendly noises back to them – if they burble to me, I burble back – and they seem to like it. Sometimes we even get a little dialogue going, but I don’t try to kid myself that either of us really understands what the other is saying (like I said, I’m not crazy!). Sometimes Spock does seem to understand, but I think it’s more to do with tone of voice than the actual spoken words, though if you ask him to find Zé, he does do it! He must know Zé’s name and can hear the questioning tone in our voices. He trots off to wherever Zé is sleeping, pokes him with his nose and then wanders off – job done!

Not always impressed by my efforts!

Also, Spock can be very expressive. When Marcelo is out at work and I am here with the cats, Spock will sometimes sit howling outside the bedroom door. I assume that he believes Marcelo is in there hiding from him! When I call to Spock to distract him from his lamenting, he will turn to me and say “Puurrrraaaaaau raaau?” in such a questioning tone that I can’t help but laugh. I honestly believe that he has learnt that tone from hearing us talking. He also says “Puurrrraaaaaau raaau?” when he thinks food might be coming his way, but once he knows he’s getting some the questioning tone goes and is replaced by a tone that can only be described as expectant and demanding.

But, back to the point, Marcelo and I have both learned a cat word. It’s true!

Fly: “Ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki” ‘ki’ as in kick not keep

One day Spock was chasing a fly and chattering at it. We, while laughing, made the noise too and Spock paused in his chase to look at us. We did this a couple of times when there was a fly in the room and now he knows that we know the word. If there is a fly in another room, all we have to do is call out “Ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki” and he comes charging into the room, eyes wide, crouched down, alert and at the ready.

And it’s not just a fluke. He comes every time. I am careful only to do it if there really is a fly for him to chase. I don’t want to ruin this connection by trying to trick him. One evening (the first week we discovered this trick) I was telling Marcelo about doing it that day and I said, under my breath, “I called out ‘Ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki’ from the kitchen and he…..” before I’d finished the sentence Spock had appeared on the table next to us, also saying “Ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki” and looking so excited, so it’s not even safe to say it quietly…he hears…he comes. I feel so bad when his excitement is for nothing, so if I can’t do it when there is a fly here, I may just do a false call one time to get it on camera, but that will be the only time.

So, they know some of our words and we now know one of theirs. This is the first time I have ever learned a cat word with this much success – my accent must be getting better.

Spock has a long history with flies. Have you seen his video Spock vs. Fly?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 19/06/2011 2:07 pm

    If you figure out “PLEASE use the litterbox” I would love to learn it!


    • 20/06/2011 10:50 am

      Of course! If I ever become fluent you’ll be the first to know.
      (I’ve done your combi-ID card – it’s on the member page)

  2. 19/06/2011 7:09 pm

    I’m still going for “Bugs come.” But maybe ki-ki-ki would do it. But I’d have to find a fly. I’ll keep looking. Photo with tongue out: Perfection.

    • 20/06/2011 10:59 am

      We keep the windows partly open all the time which means lots of flying things manage to find their way in. The ki-ki-ki does summon Spock, but I’m afraid if I lie to him about the presence of small game/flying snacks he might stop responding to it.

  3. 20/06/2011 7:15 am

    Only one thing to say to that:

    And I talk to my parents’ cat too sometimes. But he does only understand sounds.

    • 20/06/2011 11:03 am

      I love this! Simon’s Cat is great. That little chattering noise is exactly what I’m talking about. 🙂
      I’ve always talked to our family cats – I think tone of voice is really important.

  4. Hilda permalink
    20/06/2011 3:18 pm

    Wow, now that’s quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself! I talk to my four babies ALL the time everyday. Oliver starts talking to me me as soon as I walk in the door or on the weekends, he’s just jabbering until I sit on the sofa (or at least that’s how I interpret it!) so can sit next to me and start kneading and at night, if I wake up to go to the bathroom, when I come out, he’s jabbering away until I get back in bed so he can plop right next to me (very cute I may add). Now my Sunny, he understands a few words such as: play, who’s hungry, comes when he’s called. My Blue, he understands night-night,…goes right to his grandma’s room and jumps on the bed! My Gracie is a typical girl…..only responds on her terms!

    I like to think that we’re blessed and honored to have such creatures trust us soo much that they make the effort to communicate with us. Are we lucky ! 🙂

    • 21/06/2011 9:33 am

      Oliver sounds lovely…well, they all do, but Oliver sounds especially sweet.
      We are very lucky! I’ve known a couple of cats in the past who were pretty much unresponsive and uniterested in being friends. This 2-way attachement/love is a lot more fulfilling.

  5. lifewith4cats permalink
    21/06/2011 9:03 pm

    I cant wait to see a video. So I can learn the proper pronunciation. You may have cracked the code of kitty language. I can’t wait to try it out.

    Im not sure but I might guese it means ‘flying creature?” Ive heard them say kikiki at birds. But I never tried to make the sound before.

    • 21/06/2011 10:20 pm

      Yes, you could be right. I think my Kennie used to say it to other flying things. Spock only seems to say it with flies, so far. He ADORES moths, but if he can’t get at them he tends to just howl desperately. You should try it with yours – Zé isn’t interested at all but I’m curious as to whether it would work with other cats. I will try to get a video of Spock answering a ki-ki-ki call 🙂

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