One of the gels was telling me recently that scientists have identified literally hundreds of different noises cats are capable of making, all of them variations on the standard purr, meow and hiss.   I don’t know whether this is true or not, and the gel couldn’t cite me her source.  Even if it is, in my experience of inter-species communications with the two Port Swiller cats, pretty much all of their talk boils down to either, “Feed me!” or “Pet me!”

I got thinking about this because our elderly Jennyanydots¹ seems to be making more of a pest of herself recently, loudly demanding attention at all hours of the day and, increasingly, of the night.  It’s almost as if she’s reverting to a kind of infancy, a state I believe is fairly common in very old age.  (She is something over 18, after all.)  And despite my intense dislike of being manipulated,  I find myself complying with her wishes on the grounds of the guilt I would feel if I ignored her and she dropped dead.   You refused her last request to have her ears scratched?  You cad!

Funnily enough, the most extraordinary noise I ever heard Jenny make came literally the day we brought her home from the shelter.   The folks there estimated that she was something between six and eight months old, and practically the very first thing she did when we got her into our apartment was to go into heat.

At the time, we also had a three or four year old tom named Jeeves.  Jeeves had been going a bit nutty because we’d just lost his brother Bertie (who had a dicky heart) and it was to fill this void that we brought home Jenny with such dispatch after Bertie kicked off.   Well, Jeeves of course had been spayed long before, so while he was certainly interested in Jenny, he wasn’t at all interested in Jenny, if you take my meaning.

As I say, Jenny went into hyperdrive when we brought her in – racing around, yowling, bouncing off the furniture, literally climbing the curtains.  In the midst of the hubbub, Jeeves wandered in and sat down in the middle of the room with a puzzled (and, to be honest, rayther stupid) look on his face, wondering what to make of it.  When Jenny spotted him, her eyes lit up and she began to do a dance worthy of Salome.  Finally, after circling round him and crooning hard with growing frustration, she threw herself down on the floor in front of him, spread her legs, arched her tail and looked over her shoulder, letting out a scream that translated perfectly as, “Do I have to draw you a goddam MAP???!!!”

When Jeeves continued to sit there looking at her blankly,  Jenny completely lost her temper, suddenly wheeling around, smacking Jeeves in the face as hard as she could and letting out another screech which also translated perfectly as, “You stupid, STUPID sunuvabitch!!!!!!!!”  And with that she bolted off to continue her caterwauling in private.

Needless to say, a visit to the vet was quickly arranged.

Nowadays, Jenny doesn’t meow except to get skritches which, as I say, she’s demanding more and more often.  Curiously, her young companion Bella² only meows when she wants food (which, granted, is all the time).  When Bella wants my attentions, which she likes every bit as much as Jenny does, she simply jumps up on to the arm of my chair and stares at me, purring heavily.

(I have noted more than once the fact that although, or perhaps because I don’t especially like cats, they seem invariably to gravitate toward me.)


¹ Lest some friends of the decanter might get the idea that Robbo actually has some soft spot for Andrew Lloyd Gawd-Help-Us Webber, I would hasten to explain that the Mothe used to read the T.S. Eliot poems to us in my misspent yoot and that one stuck with me.

² An ironic name (not of our choosing, but of the Crazy Cat Lady from whom we got her), since “bella” is the Italian for “beautiful” and our Bella is of a quite ugly coloring once described to me by long time friend of the decanter Groovy Vic as “shite-brindle”.