1. “I meow at you to tell you something specific, but when you meow at me, you’re not speaking cat language”
Scientists have identified more than a dozen different meows that cats make, each with its own meaning. In general, kittens use meows to communicate with their moms, but grown cats employ them solely to communicate with humans. (We use hisses, growls, squeals, and other sounds to talk to each other.) More perceptive owners can probably tell a cat’s “I’m hungry” meow apart from its “I’m bored” or discern “I’m h.u.rt” from “I’m s.car.ed.” When you meow at us, we do recognize your voice but you may as well be squawking like a Charlie Brown teacher for all the sense you’re making.
2. “We’re early risers, so deal with it!”
When we meow right before dawn—a time when you’re probably trying to get a little more sleep before your alarm goes off—we’re doing what comes naturally. And our circadian rhythms shift with the seasons just as yours do. When the days get longer and the birds and squirrels are up and at ’em earlier, so are we. You could feed us to stop our meows, but know that this will reinforce our cat behavior. If you’re serious about curbing our early wake-up calls, start by installing blackout shades or blinds in your bedroom so the sun won’t rouse us. Then, stick to strict feeding times for us: once in the morning (but not right after you rise because then we’ll associate your getting out of bed with getting fed) and once shortly before you go to bed (to try to delay our hunger). Finally, be patient: You are attempting to undo thousands of years (if not more) of ingrained cat behavior. You may have to accept defeat.
3. “When we do our business outside the litter box, we’re not just acting out”
If we have a u.ri.nar.y tract in.fec.tion (U.T.I), we often have trouble making it to the kitty commode in time. To find out if this or any other biological issue is the problem, bring us to the vet for a checkup. And if a U.T.I isn’t the problem, perhaps the box is. Please change the litter every day, and ideally, provide us with an open box to use; we prefer it to a closed one.
4. “Please do not disturb my nap on your laptop or keyboard”
You people talk and talk about how much you need to work on the computer so you wake us up and push us off, but we know what you’re really planning to do on them: watch videos of cats. Weird. Don’t you humans realize that cats must get an average of 12 to 16 hours of shut-eye a day, or we’re just useless? Also, our delicate cat bodies need the warmth from your computer: Our ideal temperature is 20 degrees higher than that of you humans.
5. “Quit blaming my hair for your all.e.rgi.es”
Why are so many humans all.erg.ic to us? (Cat all.e.rgi.es are reportedly twice as common as dog all.e.rgi.es.) You don’t see any cats having all.e.rgi.es to humans, do you? And you humans are so quick to point to our hair as the c.ulp.rit. But what actually causes your sneezes and coughs is a tenacious and super-adhesive protein found on cat skin called “Fel d 1.” And we’re sorry to break it to you people who went to the expense and trouble of buying a so-called “hypoallergenic” cat, but such a breed does not exist. Some breeds do produce less Fel d 1 than others, but all cats produce it.
6. “When we meow nonstop, it may be our cry for help”
Some cat breeds, like Oriental shorthairs or Siamese, are chattier than others. But if your cat goes from not-that-frequent to frequent talking, he may be i.l l so you should bring him to the vet. Still, there may be another, less ominous reason behind our multitude of meows: attention. You humans have come up with the sweeping generalization that all cats are solitary, aloof creatures. Wrong! Sure, we need our quiet time but we do like company, particularly if you’re gone all day.
7. “We cats have no problems with (our) n.u d.it.y”
Humans are filled with the merciless urge to inflict hats, ties, dresses, and other clothing items on us. But what do we look like to you … dogs? We hate to feel enclosed or confined, and while you may catch us kneading on one of your sweaters, we’re merely enjoying the texture of the knit under our paws; that doesn’t mean we want to wear it and we certainly don’t want to wear it so we can star in cat memes. We don’t need clothes to stay covered: our coats contain up to 130,000 hairs per square inch.
8. “Can you stop your species from shaming the humans who love us?”
While people who like dogs are perceived as extroverted, good-natured, and active, the people who prefer cats are taunted with the offensive phrase “c.r.az.y cat lady”—i.e., an obsessive, antisocial shut-in. This h.u.rts our feelings. And we have one other bone to pick: what’s up with using the word “catty” to mean mal.ic.ious or sp.it.eful?
9. “Don’t freak out when I bring you d e.a.d animal or insect “gifts””
Animal behaviorists have uncovered a few reasons for why we do this. We may be imitating what our mama cats did for us. You fill our food dishes every day, and since we’re not ingrates, we are returning the favor. Or, we might have caught, say, more crickets than we can consume so we thought you might like the leftovers. Finally, we could be giving our catch to you so that you can help us store it for later. Like scratching, bestowing such gifts is natural cat behavior on our part so if you don’t like it, you might need to put a bell on us to prevent us from snaring anything. But don’t try to freak us out, especially with s.c.ar.y cucumbers.
10. “Hands off the belly, ‘kay?”
You assume that when we show you our stomachs, we’re being friendly. Yes, in some cases, this is a normal cat behavior that signifies chumminess. But at other times, it’s the opposite—it’s cat language for “You wanna fight? Bring it on.” Displaying the belly is a defensive move that shows potential enemies that all of our limbs and claws are primed and ready to go into at.ta.ck mode. And there’s one other common reason we flash our tummies: We’re simply trying to stretch. And please keep me well-fed.