Do not misunderstand me. I do not think that we should communicate with our cats solely using cat sounds. As a rule, they also understand our human speech very well. But from time to time a situation arises in which it is better, faster or easier to communicate using cat sounds. I would like to demonstrate with a few examples.
When we see that our cat is involved in a physical confrontation with another cat, our first impulse may be to try to rescue them and avoid the worst. I would not necessarily recommend that we humans get involved and try to bodily separate the contestants. It is very likely that we will just end up injured as well, bitten or scratched on the hands or arms. Then we will be in a much worse position to help our cats. Cat behavior guides sometimes recommend trying to scare the animals so that they will stop fighting and run away. Common suggestions include clapping your hands, loudly yelling no or throwing a pillow near (but not directly at) the squabblers. I have tried every variant of these suggestions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The most successful method I have tried is the acoustic approach: namely, by hissing. I stand one or two meters away from the cats and hiss loudly at them—that is to say, I imitate the hissing of a cat. Sometimes it works right away, and sometimes I have to hiss two or three times, but up until now it has always worked. The cats react to the hissing and startle, they separate, and either one or both cats run away quickly—often it is the opponent who retreats, as my cats recognize me and stick around.
Do you also have a special “greeting ritual” that you have developed and that you use with your cats in the morning or when you first see your cats after getting home at night? A way of maintaining your relationship or of showing each other how much you have missed one another?
When you encounter a strange cat, or one you just do not know very well, they can be better greeted by imitating the typical movements that cats use in greeting. Get down on your haunches or sit down, so as to make yourself smaller. Do not turn toward the cat, but sit at its side instead. Do not look at it directly. Try to imitate a friendly cat tail with your arm and hand by bending your elbow, raising you lower arm and shaping you hand like an arch or question mark. With a soft, small voice, you can then try to speak to them. The frequency code comes into play again here: high-pitched and bright (with acoustically high resonances) voices and sounds count as friendly, dark (with acoustically low resonances) and deep voices as aggressive. Sometimes I try to imitate a soft, bright trill, a chirrup, with a rising melody, “Brrrrrriuh.” Many of the cats I greet this way approach me, so that I can very slowly extend a hand and allow them to take a sniff. I might even have a treat with me that the cat can then have.
No, That Is Not Allowed!
Sometimes cats do things that are dangerous or that we, for whatever reason, do not like. A soft “No, darling, I already told you that is not allowed” will not do much. It is more effective to growl long and deep, grrr, hiss sharply, hsssshhh!, or spit, kshhht!!, with the corresponding body language (make yourself large). That works much better for me. I even have a sound for “no” (a hissing sound), and another for “go away” or “come in!” I then follow behind my cats, almost like a sheep dog, and make a special clacking sound (by clicking the tongue). My cats figured out very quickly that they should go away, or come inside, when they hear this sound. I would like to emphasize that I have tried this only around my own cats in my own space. There might be problems if I were to hiss with other cats. Hissing should be carefully considered. It would be best to speak to your vet, cat psychologist or therapist before employing aggressive cat sounds!
Although many humans find it difficult to imitate purring, I have determined that my cats are less stressed when I try to purr—they lie down, stay down and close their eyes. I sit next to them, pet them slowly, and practice my purr as softly and as slowly as I can. I might have gotten a little bit better, but I still find it difficult to imitate this sound. But when you speak in your own voice with soft, low tones, it can be just as effective.
You can learn more about cats Language, here.