I once read somewhere that the smartest cats learn that humans communicate through verbal means, so those cats start doing the same. That’s probably true, because I’m pretty sure my own anecdotal evidence would show that the smartest cats I’ve had have also been the most vocal. I think that the smartest of the smart cats, however, also learn to mimic the sounds the humans around them make.
Demon, for example, the smartest cat I’ve ever known, learned how to whine. He learned it from me, okay? I can admit it. I’m not proud. He did, he learned how to whine, and when he was really getting going good, at his absolute bitchiest, the intonation and pitch he used sounded just like me when I’m in a particularly petulant mood. He didn’t do that when I first moved in with him and Scott. He developed that trait over years.
Now Xena seems to have developed a certain vocal habit common to human children, and I cannot figure out where she would have picked this up.
Xena has two places she considers hers: the top of the cat tree and my desk chair. if one of the boys is in the former spot and I’m sitting at my desk, she gets quite put out. That’s when she decides she needs loving and she needs it now. She jumps in my lap, she gets cuddly, she becomes starved for attention. Is all of this really because she wants me to snuggle her? No. It’s all because she wants to annoy me so much that I’ll move and she can take my chair, because how dare I be sitting there when that chair is so clearly hers?
One morning a few weeks ago, I emerged from the Cat Free Zone to be greeted by Xena waiting for me right outside the door. As soon as I set foot in the hallway, she started in on me. Meow, meow, meow.. meow. meow, meow… non-stop, a continuous stream of loud, whiny meowing. As she bitched at me, she kept running a few feet ahead of me down the hall, then stopping to look back to make sure I was following.
When we got to the living room, she glared up at the top of the cat tree, where Goblin was sleeping peacefully, then turned back to me and let out a particularly shrill yelping meow. Then she glared at my desk chair, where Joxer was laying in equally peaceful repose.
Then it occurred to me: she was tattling. The boys were in HER spots, and she was not happy about it, so she was telling on them. With a great deal of outrage, too.
She followed me into the bathroom, and into the kitchen when I started the kettle. The complaining never stopped, though it took on a slightly more demanding tone as she realized I wasn’t going to do anything about her situation. When I finally made it back to my desk chair to scoop up Joxer and dump him onto the floor, the meowing got excited for a moment, until I sat down in the chair myself. She finally shut up and started sulking instead.
I think Xena may be the smartest cat ever. She not only learned that humans communicate through vocalizations, but she learned, all on her own, how to tell on others. Whiny and brilliant. I sure can pick ’em.