How much do cats really understand?

Downstairs, I was watching the road in front of the house, another tiring, but uneventful day. And that’s when I heard it. A loud meowing. It was nothing like I had heard before. Meelka was looking up at me, at my feet, as though beckoning me, telling me to follow her, telling me that something had happened…

We know cats are intelligent. But to what extent? They are excellent hunters, they know exactly what to do get us to do what they want us to do, and they’re adorable as hell! At a point of time, I had eleven cats. And they all had these qualities and more. That’s not to say they’re manipulative, it’s just survival. And to people who say they’re aloof, hah! They’ve never known cats. Every cat owner (*cough* I mean, cat slave) knows that you form this special bond – it’s not forced, it’s not your dog-like-tail-wagging-tongue-lolling love (every cat is different, but this isn’t always the case; and, nothing against dogs, they’re lovely), it’s gradual, intense, it’s like building a house. You lay the foundation, the framework… it’s built to last. And during this time, you realise that they have a pattern of communication just for you. There might be plenty who will disagree with me on this one, it’s up for debate, but I’ve always known that they have a special language for their non-furry counterparts that only they understand.

Research says cats talk to humans. Meelka certainly did, when Liril was in trouble. The problem is, it’s we who don’t understand what the felines are saying a lot of the times. They might be saying more than ‘hello,’ and ‘feed me,’ and ‘pet me,’ and so on.

Anybody who has a cat has had conversations with their furballs. I’m not just talking meow-meow here, I’m talking about a wide range of vocalisation they have just for us. They have an incessant, loud meow when you get home, a different one when you wake up, a more urgent sound when they want food, and an absolute favourite of mine – when they want affection. And some of them are just content enough to watch you silently, blinking slowly now and then. And… you wonder. What’s going on in that funny little mind? Does he understand what I’m saying, because it sure as hell looks like it. There’s that knowing look, the one that says, ‘I understand you perfectly, human.’ I’ve seen the look on my kitty’s face when I yell, when I’m angry, when I’m frustrated, when I’m happy, he has the look, an understanding of sorts, like he knows what I feel. But it’s much, much more. Something… deeper.

Sometimes, I like to irritate my baby kitty, D’Artagnian, just for the heck of it, so adorable! (Sorry, love. <strokes said kitty>) I keep prodding him over and over, and then he gives me this look. Hey, back off. I try to wake him up, and he does this oh, come on, don’t be like that sort of expression. If you’ve known them long enough, you’ll know what I’m saying. It’s almost like human interaction.

In my post – Dear D’Artagnian, I mentioned how Meelka meowed for help when her baby boy D’Artagnian was attacked by five dogs, alerting us to the situation. But she might as well have been meowing in fear, in despair. So, here’s another incident, one that’s made an impression, one I’ll never forget, one among the many incidents that have proved to me over and over just how intelligent these magical creatures can be. One that happened nearly five years ago.

The sun was going down, it was drizzling. Meelka had given birth to triplets, pure whites, they were four months old. They were Lisa, Leo, and Liril. They were exactly alike, the three of them. Of course, I could tell between the three of them, but anybody else? Mm-mm. So, back to the story, they were playing on the edge of the terrace at the back of the house. The mother and babies. Downstairs, I was watching the road in front of the house, another tiring, but uneventful day. And that’s when I heard it. A loud meowing. It was nothing like I had heard before. Meelka was looking up at me, at my feet, as though beckoning me, telling me to follow her, telling me that something had happened. So I started to walk, and she was sprinting at cat speed as I tried to keep up. She would jolt up the staircase in one or two quick cat steps and stop and look behind, seeing if I was coming, waiting for me to catch up. And then sprint-sprint, she would climb another set of stairs. She then looked at the door, the door that led to the terrace (you see, she had jumped off the terrace, on to the canopy, on to the ground, and entered through my front door). So, I opened it. And she led me right to up to the edge of the terrace, and meowed at me. What are you doing!? Look, human, look down. She was perched on the edge. I looked down curiously, and… aw, poor Leo! He was always the bravest of the bunch (hence the name; in the featured image, you can see him challenging D’Artagnian, his older brother!). Always doing crazy things. And now, he had fallen off to the canopy. He had no means of escape. The canopy was too high off the ground for him.

Another meow. A reproachful kind, you could say, from Meelka. Aren’t you going to help my baby?

And I just climbed down. Minutes later, Leo was safe in my arms, shivering, making little meow noises- I’m fine, I’m fine, give me a minute. And Leo being Leo, started doing crazy things again. But I’ll never forget Meelka’s voice that day. The way she had come to me. Me, not anybody else. The one person she knew she could trust. Nobody taught her that, she had no way of knowing what I would and wouldn’t do. And also, she knew.

She knew.

How much do cats really understand? A lot.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: