Feline Vocalization: What Chatters, Chirps, Trills Mean

Your cat has a number of different vocalizations, and if you’re like many of us, you have no idea what they all mean. She might “chatter” when she sees a bird outside, or when you put the little red dot on the ceiling where she can’t reach it. Sometimes, she chirps, and sometimes she trills, but you can’t quite figure out what she’s saying. What does a uniquely feline vocalization mean?

Feline vocalization 1: The chatter

Many of us have seen and heard this particular feline vocalization. Your cat, while watching out the window or staring at something on the ceiling, issues a strange sound from her throat while her lower jaw shudders. This is known as chattering, and, according to Cat Behavior Associates, there are a couple of possible explanations for this.

Some experts think that cats chatter this way because they’re frustrated they can’t reach their prey. Others think it’s a reflex action that comes from anticipating the killing bite. Still others believe that it’s how cats control their excitement over seeing their prey appear.

It’s also entirely possible that cats chatter for all three reasons, and it depends on the cat. If your cat chatters, see if you can find out what she’s watching, and if you can determine her mood. Perhaps you’ll be able to decode her personal chatter.

Feline vocalization 2: The chirp

This is often a high-pitched sound that cats make when they’re surprised, according to Petplace. You’ve probably heard your cat do this when you’ve touched her while she wasn’t even aware of your presence. Dr. Debra Primovic says that it’s similar to her giving you a surprised, “Hi!”

Kali’s behavior certainly bears this out. She’s our most prolific chirper, and almost always does it when we surprise her. Chase sometimes does it, too, but Aria and Gizmo almost never chirp at us.

Feline vocalization 3: The trill

Some think this is the same thing as a chirp, and use the two terms interchangeably. Indeed, the sounds are quite similar, but a trill might be a little bit longer. The Humane Society says that trills are how a mother tells her kittens to follow her. It may also be how adult cats talk vocally to one another.

If your cat uses this feline vocalization on you, she’s probably telling you to follow her. Next time she trills at you and starts walking away, follow her and see if she keeps doing it, and also to see if you can find out what she wants. If she leads you to her empty food bowl or to her favorite napping spot, you know you’ve understood her language.

Of course, she may also just lead you in circles, in which case she’s either playing a game, or she doesn’t know to where she should lead you. But if you pay attention to her vocalizations, you might learn things about her that you never knew before.

Scrappy, The Famous Cat With Vitiligo, Is Ill

Most die-hard cat people know who Scrappy is (I know I’m a big fan). He’s a black cat who mysteriously began turning white, and now has black-and-white markings that are very unique. He’s 18 years old, too, which means he’s likely to have health problems, and health problems are what he’s going through now.

Scrappy’s health problems are common for cats his age

Scrappy has been diagnosed with liver and kidney problems that are terminal, according to PetsRadio.com. While his parent doesn’t explain exactly what’s wrong, we do know that he’s on medication that can help prolong his life:

The last update to his Facebook page is a photo of him in a garden that was posted yesterday.

How did Scrappy come by his markings?

Scrappy became famous across the Internet for his very unusual markings. He’s black-and-white, but not like any black-and-white cats that we’re used to. Instead of being a tuxedo cat, or a black-and-white tabby, his fur is oddly spotted, with no rhyme or reason to the markings.

He was born in 1997 as a solid black cat, but over time, white blotches began appearing in his fur. Apparently, he has vitiligo – the same condition that caused Michael Jackson’s skin to turn white. In cats, vitiligo is very rare, and it will make a black cat’s fur slowly turn white.

That’s why this cat has such unusual markings, which make him unique and quite handsome. It was a relief to me to find that vitiligo doesn’t affect a cat’s health at all. It just affects his coloring and his markings, and that’s the case with Scrappy. Until recently, he was a healthy and happy cat.

The vet originally gave him six months, but perhaps they’re optimistic that his new diet and medicine will help him live longer than that. Unfortunately, given his age, it may just be his time. Either way, Scrappy is well-loved, and well-taken care of, and his life will no doubt continue to be very full.


Featured image via embedded Facebook post

Our moods dramatically affect our cats’ moods, health

We’ve known for a long time that babies take their emotional cues from their parents. When presented with something new, they watch their parents’ reactions carefully, and react in similar ways. The same is true of dogs. Until recently, however, it was thought that cats did not take emotional cues from us. However, there is research that shows that cats’ moods, too, can be affected by our moods and reactions.

Researchers have watched cats’ moods and behavior carefully

According to an article on NPR, researchers at the University of Milan in Italy studied 24 cats and their parents in an attempt to match experiments done with dogs and their parents. The researchers put people and their cats in a room with a fan that had green ribbons attached. They allowed the cats to explore the room, and then told their people to react to the fan either positively, negatively, or neutrally.

When people were neutral towards the fan, more than 75 percent of the cats would look back and forth between the fan and their owner, trying to see how they should react to the stimulus. That number closely aligns with the number of dogs that did the same thing in similar experiments, showing that cats, too, use us to determine how they should feel about something.

The same was true of cats in the negative group. In fact, NPR says they would start moving towards the screen that both hid the camera and represented the only way out of the room when they realized their parents were upset about the fan.

Our own stress and anxiety can negatively affect our cats’ moods, behavior and health

What does this mean for our moods? An article on Catster explores whether our own stress and anxiety affects our cats’ moods, behavior and health. Author Keith Bowers talks about how his stress over several different things in his life affected his cat, Thomas. Thomas was a very outgoing, friendly, social cat. He greeted first-time visitors with enthusiasm, instead of caution, or even running away. That’s how friendly he was.

While Bowers was going through some rough times, he believes Thomas suffered several episodes of what’s known as feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Thomas would run away from things that weren’t there. He would twitch his back all the time. He groomed his flanks excessively. His mews were full of desperation.

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome has no known cause, but may be a neurological disorder, or triggered by trauma. Bowers has no proof, but since Thomas had gotten a clean bill of health at the vet, he and his wife believe that Thomas’ weird behavior was triggered by their severe stress and anxiety.

While Bowers’ story is anecdotal, it does lend credence to the study in Milan. Or rather, the study in Milan lends credence to the idea that Thomas’ episodes were related to his family’s anxiety. So it’s important that we “mind our moods,” as NPR’s headline puts it, to help our cats’ moods and health. This doesn’t mean bury your emotions, though. It just means be mindful of what you project, and how you project it.

How To Handle Fleas On Young Kittens

In the Midwest, flea season generally starts in May and goes on until winter. In fact, it’s possible for fleas on your cat to peak in the fall, not the summer as is commonly thought. Generally, temperatures outside need to stay consistently below freezing before flea season is over, and even then, if they’re already in your house they will likely continue to flourish. What do you do if you find fleas on young kittens in your house?

It’s not smart to treat fleas on young kittens with the usual flea and tick treatments

Products such as Frontline, Revolution, flea shampoos and flea dips can help you get rid of fleas in your house and on your older pets, however, you can’t treat fleas on young kittens this way. Flea products like those listed above can cause serious illness, injury, and even death in young kittens. It’s best to avoid using these altogether. The best thing to do is to take her to your vet and let your vet handle it.

What you can do with fleas on young kittens

If you can’t take her in within a few days of noticing the fleas, consider giving your kitten a bath in lukewarm water with baby shampoo. Baby shampoo is very gentle and ideal for young kittens. You can also use Dawn dish soap for fleas on young kittens, because it has been proven to be safe for wildlife that has been rescued from oil spills. Make sure it’s diluted first, though.

Your kitten needs to be in a warm place while doing this, so start by using a space heater to warm up your bathroom. Fill the sink with a few inches of lukewarm water (not hot, it should feel like a warm swimming pool) and gently put her into it. Keep her head out of the water at all times. You want her to be neck-deep when she’s sitting, but absolutely no deeper; it’s very important you keep soap and water out of her eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.

Once she’s in the water you’ll see her fleas running to her head and face to escape. Start working a dime-sized amount of soap into her fur as the fleas try and run, and use a flea comb to brush them off her head and face. You won’t get them all this way but you’ll get many, and many more will drown when she’s put into the water. Flea combs are readily available at your local pet supply store.

Make sure you take good care of your kitten following the bath, too

Drain the water and rinse her off thoroughly; there shouldn’t be any soap at all left on her when you’re done. More fleas will die during this part of the process, and you may also want to run the comb over her head and face once more before taking her out of the sink.

When you’re done bathing her, dry her fur as much as possible with one towel, and then use second towel to wrap her up, leaving her face exposed. If she’s younger than 6 weeks, she will need to stay wrapped up in the dry towel because very young kittens have trouble regulating their own body temperatures.

Do NOT leave her body exposed to the air while her fur is still damp; she can get a nasty chill this way. In fact, the best way to keep her warm is to cuddle her while she’s drying because your body heat will help a lot. This may take a few hours so it’s best to actually set aside a good chunk of your day to do this.

To effectively fight fleas on young kittens, you’ll have to repeat this until you can get her to the vet

Effectively treating fleas on young kittens involves doing this once to twice a week, especially before you’re able to get to your vet. Also, you’ll need to vacuum your house daily and wash every blanket and towel that your kitten uses or sleeps in on a daily basis to keep the infestation from spreading as much as possible.

If you have adult pets in the house you can use products like Frontline or Revolution on them to keep them from getting fleas as well, and that will also help keep the fleas from multiplying as quickly as they otherwise might. Don’t use these to treat fleas on young kittens, though. There’s no way to emphasize that enough.

It is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it’s also the best and safest way to handle fleas on young kittens. Remember, ALL flea products are a type of poison and are very dangerous for young kittens. Further, over-the-counter flea products can be toxic even to adult cats. DO NOT use these on your kitten no matter what the label says about age or body weight. Once you get her to your vet he will be able to recommend a course of action that’s both safe for your kitten and effective at getting rid of the fleas.

Do Cats Show Love Because They Love Us, Or Because They Own Us?

It’s easy to tell whether your dog loves you, and when he’s feeling affectionate, but what about cats? Do our cats love us? We’ve heard that cats aren’t capable of loving us, and that they may even hate us to some degree. How is that possible when they cuddle on us, and purr with us, and rub all over us? How do cats show love?

There are many ways cats show love

Care2.com has an article detailing ten ways that cats show love. They are:

  • Head butting
  • Cheek rubbing
  • High tail with tip twitching
  • Holding eye contact and blinking slowly
  • Purring
  • Cuddling, or sitting close to you
  • Kneading on you
  • Washing your hair or your ears
  • Bringing gifts
  • Trilling

Many of these are pretty self-explanatory. Washing your hair or your ears might seem a little odd, but this is actually your cat’s way of showing you that she trusts you and cares for you. Petfinder says that, between cats, grooming is a social activity that works to strengthen their bonds.

Perhaps cats show love in order to put us in our place

Of course, there’s always the possibility that cats show love to subtly let us know who’s boss. Think about it: When your cat trills at you, blinks at you, purrs at you, or does many of these other things, it can be very difficult to deny her what she wants later on. Vetstreet has a list of ways you know that your cat actually owns you:

  • She eats what she wants to eat, and you have dozens of different foods to tempt her appetite;
  • You don’t move her, ever;
  • You just buy more toys when she seems bored with the ones she’s got;
  • You have a cupboard or drawer full of nothing but cat stuff;
  • Your phone is full of photos of your cat;
  • You make sure your cat has multiple water sources.

Have you done these things in response to her affection, or perhaps as a result of her affection? Then yes, she owns you, but she loves you for letting her own you.

Bobcat Kitten Remains Found in Sacred Native American Burial Ground

It often seems like all the great archeological finds, at least, as they pertain to cats, happen elsewhere. Numerous finds in Egypt show how the ancient Egyptians revered cats. The oldest known instance of cats living with humans was found in an ancient grave on Cyprus. China is home to a discovery showing the early relationship between humans and cats. Now, an archeological find in Illinois shows there may have been an early relationship between cats and humans right here in the U.S., too, where bobcat kitten remains have been found in an ancient burial ground.

How did scientists first find these bobcat kitten remains?

Roughly 30 years ago, researchers dug up the remains of a young animal in a Hopewell burial ground that would have typically been reserved for humans, according to an article from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). At that time, archeologists were working to excavate sites ahead of a new highway project. They assumed that the little skeleton was a puppy, and put the remains in a box.

In 2011, a doctoral student named Angela Perri discovered the box, and upon examining the bones, realized that they belonged not to a canine, but to a feline, specifically a bobcat kitten. In case anybody thinks the kitten could have ended up there by accident, AAAS says that it was wearing a necklace of bear teeth and marine shells. In addition, the Hopewell had placed it carefully in its grave; its paws were together. They didn’t just throw these bobcat kitten remains into a hole.

Perri’s study of these bobcat kitten remains show that the little bobcat was between four and seven months of age. Its bones didn’t show signs of trauma, which indicated that the young bobcat was not sacrificed, and had likely died of natural causes.

Why are these bobcat kitten remains so significant?

Researchers say this represents the first ceremonial burial of an animal in human burial grounds, and the only burial of an individual wild cat in the entire archeological record. The burial mound is located along the Illinois River, about 50 miles north of St. Louis.

Previous finds, such as that in China, show how cats slowly became domesticated in other parts of the world. In China, bones that are more than 5,000 years old were found in an ancient farming town, suggesting that cats lived with farmers originally because of the rodent populations.

Archeologists on the island of Cyprus excavated a human and a cat that had both been carefully interred. That burial site was at least 9,500 years old. It predates Egyptian artifacts showing cats by nearly 4,000 years. Ancient Egypt is possibly the most well known example of humans and cats living together, so the Cyprus find was a big one.

The AAAS article says that there are no clues as to why bobcat kitten remains were buried in a human burial mound. The age of the kitten suggests that the Hopewell brought it in from the wild, and may have been trying to raise it. Other speculation includes the possibility that the kitten was a pet, and the possibility that the Hopewell saw it as something spiritual.

The researchers caution that a single find doesn’t say anything about Native American attempts to domesticate cats. More research is definitely needed.

Cats Prefer Classical Music at the Vet’s and Elsewhere

Music can help cats relax, the same way it helps us relax, and when cats are recovering from surgical procedures, music can help. However, rock and pop don’t seem to be what cats want. One study shows that cats prefer classical music as a soothing sound, especially during surgery.

How did anyone discover that cats prefer classical music to other genres?

Now wait, you might ask. Cats are under during surgery. How can their reactions to music be measured? Like us, they can still hear, and they respond to it, even under anesthesia. It started with Dr. Miguel Carreira, of Portugal, saying that music plays all the time in his clinic. To him, it’s an “important element in promoting a sense of wellbeing in the team, the animals, and their owners.”

The clinicians studied 12 female cats undergoing spaying procedures, fitted them with headphones, and recorded the size of the cats’ pupils and their respiratory rates. The cats were exposed to two minutes of silence (as a control), and then two minutes each of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings (Opus 11),” Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

They noticed that the cats’ pupil sizes and respiratory rates indicated that they were most relaxed when the classical music was playing. The heavy metal of AC/DC produced a much more stressed state, while the pop music was in between. These cats prefer classical music written by Handel the best.

Are there any benefits to knowing that cats prefer classical music at the vet’s office?

The researchers think that knowing what music to play while cats are under may lead to reducing the required doses of anesthesia, since any animal under anesthesia stands a better chance of remaining asleep than a stressed animal. This is a very good thing.

Researchers recently worked to determine what kind of music cats might actually respond to, and wrote some music with frequencies, tempos and rhythms that cats normally use to communicate. They used higher pitches, and stuck to tempos that are similar to cats’ purrs and suckling sounds. They found that a lot of cats respond very well to this music.

However, whether cat music has a calming effect remains to be seen. The cats that the researchers creating the cat music worked with would focus on the music. There is, however, the possibility that, given the right cat music, it would work the best at relaxing cats, even those under anesthesia.

Cats can Teach us These 4 Things About Life

Our furry feline friends can sometimes seem utterly non-understandable sometimes, right? They have a true mystique about them, even to those of us who’ve been around cats our whole lives. Cats can teach us many things, despite the following:

  • They sleep all day, and they’ll suddenly run from one room to another without warning.
  • They scream for food, even if we’ve just fed them.
  • They know exactly when we’re about to get up, and climb into our laps.
  • They love our dirty laundry.
  • They love our clean laundry.
  • They like shoving their noses into the soles of our dirty socks, and inside our worn, stinky shoes.
  • They like the smell of trash.
  • They like herbs from the mint family, but can’t stand the smell of toothpaste or mouthwash.

They are utterly confusing little creatures, so what, exactly, is it that cats can teach us?

Well, actually, an awful lot. In watching them live their own little lives, and how they behave towards us, we can discern behaviors and apply them to our own lives. Studying their biology can help us understand our own. Some of these things might be absolutely critical to improving your life, or to better understanding human issues. Here are four things our feline friends can teach us.

Cats can teach us about sleep

Psychologist and sleep specialist Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., says that cats can teach us about the importance of sleep in our own lives, in their infinite capacity to sleep all the time. He speculates that one of the reasons cats can sleep so much is because they feel safe. Our inability to even get enough sleep may be due, in part, to not feeling safe psychologically, to feeling like we need to be aware all of the time “just in case.”

He also says that cats have a certain continuity between sleep and wakefulness, whereas we see them as two distinct and separate parts of our daily lives. Dr. Naiman’s article is quite enlightening about these aspects of sleep. To read it in full, click here.

Cats can teach us about our behavior on social media

Cats are clean creatures. They play well with others (as long as those “others” are friendly people). They’re curious. And more. How does all this translate to our behavior on social media? Kacee Erhard, of the website “Websavvy Marketers,” says that their cleanliness is analogous to some people’s incessant need to correct others’ grammar. In fact, according to a survey in the U.K., bad grammar on social media was more irritating than aggressive sales tactics.

In their constant search for things to play with, they can teach us that social media is for fun. Whether you’re using it for marketing purposes or personal reasons, have fun! Click “like” on your favorite comments and posts, and make some of your own. Retweet that silly, inspiring, or even grave tweet. Be like your cat, and look for fun everywhere.

Cats’ curiosity can translate to our curiosity about how others react to us on social media. To be effective, be curious. Be active on several different platforms, and always look for what others are saying, not just about you, but about everything.

Kacee’s entire article about what cats can teach us about our behavior on social media can be found here.

Cats can teach us about happiness

Stephanie Henkel writes that cats can teach us about a lot of things, but especially happiness. A well-loved, well cared-for cat is almost always a happy cat. Yet happiness eludes most of us humans. Examples of how cats teach us about happiness are learning to play, living in the moment, not holding grudges, getting plenty of sleep (or naps), eating well, listening to your stomach, and being kind to your friends.

Living in the moment is perhaps one of the more important keys to happiness, because if you’re constantly re-living past mistakes or wishing to go back to that happier time in your life, or constantly worrying about the future, then you aren’t as able to enjoy the present. Cats don’t worry about the past or the future very much. They’re very grounded in the here and now, and it’s a lesson we all can benefit from.

For more on how cats teach us about happiness, click here.

Cats can teach us about human health conditions

Incredibly enough, calico cats might be able to teach us about certain genetic conditions. Researchers at Stanford University are looking at the phenomenon of “gene silencing,” which is when a cell prevents a certain gene from expressing itself. In calico cats, which are almost always female, an orange gene on the X chromosome, and a black gene on the other X chromosome, are turned on and off at random throughout the cat’s body, which creates the calico pattern.

These researchers are hoping that learning how the calico’s genes are expressed can help them learn how human genes are passed on and expressed. That knowledge may help us learn how to better control genetic problems. For more details on this research, go here.


Cats’ Tongues: Why are They so Rough?

If you’ve ever had a cat lick you, you know how rough their tongues are. If your cat likes to wash you in one spot, over and over again, it can feel like she’s trying to sand your skin off. By contrast, if you’ve ever had a dog lick you, then you know that rough tongues have nothing to do with simply being an animal. Why are cats’ tongues so rough?

The physical characteristics of cats’ tongues

Cats’ tongues have backward facing barbs called papillae, according to Cat Behavior Associates. They’re what makes cats’ tongues feel so much like sandpaper. One of the primary reasons for these little barbs is so that cats can scrape all the meat off the bones of their prey.

The little barbs also help with removing dirt and debris from your cat’s fur, so she stays cleaner. However, because the barbs face backward, they make it so your cat is more likely to swallow this stuff, so you should still brush her frequently to cut down on her hairballs. That’s also why it’s not a good idea to play with your cat using certain materials, like string or yarn. It gets caught on their sandpaper tongues, and they’re more likely to just swallow it than try and spit it out.

Cats’ tongues are rough to help give them an edge in survival

Grooming is a survival tactic, too. According to Catster, one of the reasons cats groom is to remove all traces of their prey from them. Cats have an interesting position in the food chain in that they are both predator and prey. In order to avoid potential predators, they have to avoid smelling like blood and fresh meat.

So basically, your cat’s tongue is a useful tool for ensuring she gets all the food possible from her prey, and it’s also a brush that helps her keep her fur clean and tangle-free, and odor-free also. The little barbs on her tongue are nature’s way of helping her survive as both predator and prey.


Air-Purifying Plants: Which are Toxic to Your Cat?

Many people are aware of the fact that having plants indoors can help keep the air clean and make it seem fresh. An article posted on Treehugger back in 2009, which has recently been making the rounds on Facebook, says that NASA published a list of the best air-purifying plants to have indoors. There were 12 different plants exposed to benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde in sealed environments and scientists recorded the amount of each toxin they removed from the air.

While this study was published in 1989 and intended for the purpose of finding better ways to purify the air in sealed space environments, air-purifying plants can also be beneficial in the home because furniture, paint, and other decorating and building materials can produce some of these same toxins as those in the study. So you might consider having some of these plants in your home, however, if you have cats, you should be careful that you don’t choose plants that are toxic if ingested.

So which air-purifying plants did they study?

The 12 plants in the study, along with their toxicity to cats, are listed below:

  • Bamboo palm: According to the ASPCA, this is one of the air-purifying plants that’s non-toxic to both dogs and cats, and is therefore safe to have in your home.
  • Chinese evergreen: This plant is toxic to many animals, including cats. The ASPCA says that symptoms can include irritation, swelling and inflammation of the lips, mouth and throat, which can cause difficulty swallowing, along with drooling and vomiting.
  • English ivy: This is toxic to cats as well. Symptoms include digestive issues such as pain in the belly, vomiting and diarrhea. Drooling or excessive salivation may also be present.
  • Ficus: The Pet Poison Helpline says that ficus can be toxic to pets, including cats. Symptoms are lack of appetite, digestive symptoms, drooling, and redness and inflammation of the skin.
  • Gerbera daisy: Per the ASPCA, this is another of the air-purifying plants that is non-toxic to cats.
  • Marginata: This is toxic to cats and symptoms include dilated eyes, lack of coordination, digestive symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, increased heart rate, general weakness and drooling.
  • Mass cane or corn plant: The corn plant is pretty but toxic to pets. Vomiting with blood may occur, and dilated pupils, excessive salivation and depression are also signs of toxicity.
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue: This is toxic to dogs and cats, with symptoms such as general nausea, and vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Peace lily: Vetstreet.com and the ASPCA both name lilies, including peace lilies, as toxic to cats and dogs. Symptoms of toxicity are the same as those of the Chinese evergreen.
  • Pot mum: Chrysanthemums in general are toxic to cats, with symptoms ranging from excessive salivation to inflammation of the skin, along with lack of coordination and digestive issues.
  • Warneckei: This is toxic to dogs and cats. According to the ASPCA, symptoms of toxicity are the same as those found during marginata toxicity, including digestive and abdominal problems, increased heart rate, dilated eyes and lack of coordination.

Why do cats want to ruin our wonderful air-purifying plants anyway?

But why do we have to worry about our carnivorous pets eating our wonderful, air-purifying plants in the first place? Dr. Nicholas Dodman of PetPlace.com says that it’s possible that cats eat plants for dietary fiber, but whether that fiber aids digestion is unknown. He also thinks it’s possible that cats eat plants because they taste good, or, like catnip, make them feel good.

For this reason, it’s important never to assume that your cat will not sample any plants you bring home, particularly new ones. So to best protect her, stick to plants that aren’t toxic to cats just in case she decides she wants a salad for lunch instead of her usual fare. This list, compiled by the ASPCA, should help you decide on air-purifying plants that are safe for your household and your pets.

If your cat is acting strangely at all and you suspect that she has ingested a possibly toxic plant, call your veterinarian immediately.

Image by genocre, under Public Domain via Pixabay