Animal behaviourists has determined that, while a cat meow is a quite common thing, it’s not used by cats to communicate among themselves. Meowing is used by adult cats for communicating with people.
After a year and a half, I’ve found that Darcy and Furball both use distinctive meows for certain situations.
For example, Darcy goes “meow-wow” when she wants something not food-related. Usually, it means turn on the tap so I can drink from it or play with the drips. Another common one is a “mrrrrow?” with a very obvious question mark on the end. You often hear this one at about 3 AM and it seems to mean “Are you awake because I need a cuddle and if you aren’t, I’ll head butt you until you are.”
Furball has his own unique meows, too. A short meow apparently means “I want treats.” A longer, drawn out one that follows ignoring the former is, I suspect, “I’m dying of treat deprivation.” He also has a short meow with a question mark on the end that also means, “I want to play with the water from the sink.” And, if I go to bed before he does and the downstairs lights are off, you’ll hear this long drawn out mournful wail. “You left me all alone!!” Calling him is instantly followed by the sound of feet running up the stairs and the thump of him jumping on the bed.
There are few non-verbal ones, too. Darcy will lay on her back and using her claws, pull herself on the floor around the bed. I’ve come to learn that this means, “I want you to play fight with me.” (She’s a scrapper, to say the least, as her long suffering brother has learned. Being about 3 pounds heavier and about 10 inches longer hasn’t helped him in the least.)
She’ll also climb up on your chest with her front paws on your shoulder. This definitely means, “I’m standing here so you can rub my belly.”
Furball’s most distinctive non-verbal clue is what my sister-in-law, Dianne, refers to as the “drive by.” If you head to the kitchen, he’ll run in front of the cupboard where the aforementioned treats are stored and just fall over on his back. Treat deprivation is a terrible thing to live with.
The other thing to understand about meowing, by the way, is that different cats have different meows with different meanings. There’s really no cat-human language. Nope. No cat speak.
The main takeaway from this is that it is true that cats really do have servants.. And, in the case of my cats, one that seems to have been easy to train…