I have always been “blessed” with cats that sing in the car. But Ziggy out sings every cat I’ve ever known.
When we took him home from the animal shelter, I put his vocals down to nerves.
Not long after, we had to take him to the vet for his kitty shots. The moment we placed him in his carrier, the singing began.
It started off with a tentative operatic dolcissimo (very sweet) “mew”. Followed by a second and then a third. As we turned the corner he started scratching on the side of the carrier and the mew got more espressivo (insistent). Then he tried a new tactic and the mews got doloroso (sad and mournful). From his perspective, he probably thought I wasn’t listening so he began to get more insistenta (insistent) until his vocals turned fortissimo (very loud).
On the way home, it was a repeat performance. He wasn’t being naughty; he was really just stressed and anxious. Who knows what experiences he had an in a car before we adopted him.
A few weeks later we were off to the vet again for follow-up shots. And soon Ziggy was singing the same aria. The next week, when it was time for his rabies shot courtesy of the animal shelter, we were back in the car and Ziggy was singing again.
What was so interesting was the fact that it sounded like the same song.
Cats in fact have quite a large vocabulary. Author and naturalist Jean Craighead George who writes about the language cats have in her award-winning book The Cats of Roxville Station and has studied cats in nature, says that the different ways in which a cat meows has a special idiosyncratic meaning. She has categorized some feline vocalizations as follows. They are written phonetically to emphasize the different sound and tones:
- Mew (high pitched and thin) - a polite plea for help
- MEW! (loud and frantic) - an urgent plea for help
- Mew - plea for attention
- Meow - emphatic plea for attention
- MEOW! - a command!
- Mee-o-ow (with falling cadence) - protest or whine
- MEE-o-ow (shrill whine) - stronger protest
- MYUP! (short, sharp, single note) - righteous indignation
- MEOW! Meow! (repeated) - panicky call for help
- Mier-r-r-ow (chirrup with lilting cadence) - friendly greeting
Soon I worked out that Ziggy had composed a feline “song”:
Here are his lyrics:
Second verse same as the first.
So I decided to translate. It goes something like this:
Hello… Helloow …
What’s happening here?
This isn’t fair
You scooped me out of my favorite chair
I was a sleep
What did you think --I wouldn’t make a peep?
What’s happening now?
The vet!! Oh No!
I don’t want to go
I’m prodded and given a shot
It calls for a total boycott
Take me home….
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. There are always going to be vet visits for one reason or another. So I decided he was the perfect candidate for a feline ThunderShirt.
I decided the best way to test the shirt was the take him one way to the vet without it and put it on for the journey home.
I chose a fairly innocuous vet visit, namely, he was simply going for a Mani-Pedi. No needles or prodding involved. I even took Fudge along in the hope that seeing how she behaved would perhaps help him remain calm.
No such luck. The outward-bound trip was typical – very vocal with Fudge simply staring at him in disbelief that a cat could make so much noise. So just before we popped him back in his carrier, I put him in a ThunderShirt. I reckoned he wasn’t going to have to walk around wearing it so he didn’t need to get used to it from that standpoint.
On with the shirt, into the carrier and off we went home. It’s a 15-minute drive. And I must say Fudge and I enjoyed it immensely -- in total silence! I don’t say he enjoyed the ride, but he didn’t seem stressed and anxious to get out of the carrier, as was his typical modus operandi.
I was amazed how it worked instantly. But apart from keeping him calm, it helped me to drive home fully concentrating on the road and not worrying about my feline passenger.
When we got home, I took off the shirt and placed in his carrier, ready to go for next time.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning author and pet lifestyle expert.
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