She wasn’t terribly responsive to my first attempts at getting to know this beautiful rescue cat. She just looked at me and didn’t say a word, which seemed a little odd compared to the other recue cats who either sniffed me or stuck their paws out of the cage as if to say, “Take me home!”
The same thing happened on my second visit. I thought to myself that maybe she was a little shy or perhaps just calm, cool and collected. Either way, that was OK with me and perhaps what I needed in a cat.
After a couple of days of thinking about it, I called the pet store and asked if she was still available. She was. I asked if she was always this “chill”. They said she really was that mellow and, in their observation, didn’t seem nervous about anything, even other cats and dogs visiting the store. I told them that I thought she was “the one” and that I’d pick her up after dinner.
The minute she was in the car, everything changed. She cried all the way home. This wasn’t exactly the way I pictured her transition. I felt horrible, taking her away from the wonderful team at the pet store, as I must have said “I’m sorry, Honey” at least a hundred times in a ten minute drive.
Once she stepped into her new house, she suddenly had a lot to say. She meowed like a speeding ambulance. Was she happy? Was she sad? Was she disoriented? Was she displeased? What happened to the calm, cool cat who never said a word?
In the days that followed, what had me puzzled was the fact that she was eating everything I served up, her water bowl was clean and refreshed, her litter was meticulously scooped, we had play time and we had some precious quiet time together. Why was she meowing so much? I was getting really concerned that there might have been something more serious.
A week later, I returned to the pet store looking for advice. “Oh don’t worry about it, she’s just chatty,” said the manager. “She’s talking to you and maybe has a lot to say. Don’t worry about it, just keep the conversation going.”
She was right. Despite the impression I got on those initial visits, I had a talker after all. Oh boy, did I have a talker!
Ivy is an outgoing cat with a wonderful personality, who does indeed have a lot to say. She has a very rich vocabulary of meows, chirps, tones and inflections that are very helpful in giving clues into what might be going on with her at any moment. She also has potential as an opera singer, I just wish that rehearsals didn’t start at 11:00 p.m.
When I come home from work and I am at the front door taking off my coat and shoes, I hear faint meows getting louder and louder as she approaches as if to say “Welcome Home Dad… Where’s dinner… Now rub my belly!” It is certainly more entertaining than coming home to an empty house. She meows for a few minutes as we get caught up on our days, while she gets her massage.
But the mystery behind her chattiness gradually revealed itself in the months that followed: When I am home, whether on vacation days, working at home, or not feeling well and taking a sick day, the more I am around, the less she meows.
Days when I am at the office, in and out running errands, or away for an overnight stay, when I am back she seems to have a lot to tell me. For a cat who sleeps 14-16 hours per day, it is odd that she would even notice that I was ever away, but I guess she does.
That is when I made the connection. At the pet store, there was almost always a human around, which is why she was as quiet and content as she was. When I am around the house for several consecutive days, she hardly says a word. Similarly, after a stay at her cat hotel where she gets waited on, paw and foot, she comes home so relaxed, it takes a few hours before she even says anything to me when we get home.
I take this as a sign that this little kitty really needs and enjoys the company of humans.
I don’t have too many details about her life before I adopted her except that she was a stray. Whether that means she was taken from her mother too early, whether she was abandoned by her family or whether she lacked the attention she needed, the key to her happiness today is for me to be present and attentive.
With that understanding in mind, if I have a busy week that might be a little off the regular routine, I make sure that the time I do spend at home includes some quality one-on-one time to ease any potential anxiety that might result from my absence.
And for figuring out what she needs, she’s pretty transparent: If she runs around, meowing and using her scratching post, it likely means play time. If she rolls around on the floor with her belly up in the air, that’s a pretty straightforward message. If she head bumps me or does figure 8’s around my feet, it usually means that she’d like some bonding time.
For a cat, it doesn’t usually mean hours of attention. When she’s gotten what she needs, she will likely stand up and walk away.
I would still be cautious though. Now that I understand her normal meowing pattern, if she meowed constantly, even if I was home for several consecutive days, that may be a sign to take her to the vet and get her checked out because that would be a little out of character. Or, if there seemed to be more intensity in her meowing, that might be a red flag. But her day-to-day meowing seems to follow a regular pattern.
Just the same, once I figured out that my presence in her life was as important as her presence in my life, I realized that those extra moments together were precious for both of us.
Now, I just take her meowing as her way of saying that she missed me and wants to hang out with her Dad.
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