miaow!

November 10, 2006

Just finished editing a CD of the sounds of Thai wildlife. The birds, insects, frogs and squirrels were easy as I have literally weeks’ worth of recordings to choose from. For most of the mammals, however, I had to resort to recording in wildlife sanctuaries as you don’t often hear them in the wild. The last one I recorded was the binturong, or bear-cat. I had been visiting this group in the early morning when their food arrived expecting to hear them call then but day after day they remained stubbornly silent. Then one day I was passing around midday and I heard them yelling (of course I didn’t have my recorder with me). I went back yesterday and they obliged with a series of cat-like mewing, shrieks, growls and wails that far exceeded my recorder’s ability to cope with the decibel range. I had already recorded a number of big cats including the tiger, clouded leopard, leopard panther and leopard cat and listening to some of the extraordinary sounds they made got me thinking about the noises my own cats make. One day I must get round to recording them, too, as I am a long way from understanding what they mean.

Only one makes the traditional miaow and that is when she is trying to tell us something. One has a plaintive miou with a rising tone when she wants to be let out or in. One tries to miaow to us but no sound comes out but she wheezes and snores like a trooper when she’s sound asleep. Saddam makes a mixture of duck-like quacks and waaa sounds when he calls us and a gargling sound when he wants to play with one of the other cats. He is the loudest purrer but the others do on occasions when they are stroked. The purring seems to be a sound reserved for humans as they don’t purr when, for example, they are preened. One of them growls like a tiger if a stranger or enemy cat approaches the house. If play gets too rough they hiss, again just like a small tiger. Miao has a loud insistent call when she’s anxious (if I go for a walk away from our usual route, for example.) Finally there are the eerie wailing sounds they make when threatening or defending themselves against another cat. One day I will stop trying to learn people languages and attempt to understand some cat language.

2 Responses to “miaow!”

  1. SilverTiger Says:

    One of the things I learned from Artemis was that cats have a wide variety of sounds. She was a very quiet cat but became vocal on certain occasions such as when growling at an enemy, singing a low, sustained bagpipe wail when facing a rival or emitting plaintive wails when in her basket on the way to the vet. She would also emit a little “brrrp!” of pleasure at the prospect of a bowl of prawns.

    Freya makes a little quavering “eck eck eck” sound to me when I come in and a little trill, similar to Artemis’s when I stroke her.

    If angry, or to give a warning, Artemis made a loud ‘k’ at the back of her throat that sounded rather like someone plucking a big elastic band. With Freya it’s more like a simple hiss.

    The cat is a pragmatic creature and seeks ways of getting you to do what she wants or of simply communicating. If she finds a sound or gesture that works, she adds it to her repertoire.

    If I was sitting in the armchair with Artemis on my lap and wanted to go and do something, I would say “Gotta go”. She would get off my lap onto the arm of the chair, then, when I got up, she would settle in my place in the chair. When I came back, she would, without a word or gesture from me, move onto the arm of the chair and wait for me to settle. Then she would come back on my lap and curl up. Cats observe the routine of the household and fit themselves to it or manipulate it for their own purposes.

  2. tomeemayeepa Says:

    That’s interesting.I’ll add these sounds to my cat lexicon. I imagine there are individual variations but quite a lot in common in the noises cats make in response to frequently-encountered situations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: