Does your cat understand you?

Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing. IDK. I don’t think I’m generally guilty of that since I’ve never had a pet and this one isn’t technically ‘mine’ except by a virtue of a continuing guardianship arrangement.

Here’s the scenario. The cat will virtually always announce herself if she’s coming into a room where I am. There are some exceptions such as where the only lines of approach are also in my sight line, like where I watch tv and she can only come from the direction of the tv. Otherwise she meows and waits for me to respond. I almost always do, but if not, she goes away.

I didn’t really inquire too much into this since it’s not like I was ever going to know the answer with any certainty. But something happened a couple days ago that put this in perspective except I’m sure it’s not the only explanation.

I have a hair trigger startle response that is wildly disproportionate. It’s usually enough to startle people who have inadvertently triggered it. What happened was, I was walking out of the bathroom and the cat happened to be coming from the living room into the hall. Actually, I think she must have heard me since she was just sitting there. The problem was, I didn’t expect to see her and so I screamed like a little girl. Why? Pls refer to first sentence of paragraph.

Since cats can be quite twitchy by nature, I’m guessing there are certain things they can “relate to” and the thought occurred to me, finally, that maybe that’s what was going on. Thoughts?

Cats are much more communicative (and much smarter) than most people give them credit for.

Mine tell me when they need water or food and yes, they tell me what they need. Somehow they convey “need water” differently than they convey “need food”; not sure I could exactly explain how they tell me one thing and not the other, but they do.

My cats understand quite a lot of what I communicate to them.

Most of the time they don’t give a shit, though. Unless there’s tuna involved, or the laser pointer.

Undoubtedly, and without anthropomorphizing. My cats will come when I call, or if I make the “cat sound” (“psss-sss-sss”)

Mine know if I pat my shoulder and look at them, they’re free to hop up on my lap. If I don’t make that motion they stay down.

Dot likes to lay on her back in the middle of the floor (we call it her speed bump pose). If you tell her to ‘be cute’, she’ll wiggle her butt. You can say anything else and she may wag her tail, but so cute gets the whole rump shaking. She’s also our time keeper. She wakes me up at 615 every morning - which is not breakfast time. At 7pm she’ll plunk down in front of me - I ask what time is it, she does a stuttery meow and goes and sits in front of the freezer (ice cream time for her). At 10pm she’ll start herding TheKid into her room.

Mayme is our great grey hunter. She’ll announce her victory over her evil toys by meowing while bringing you the now vanquished sparkly ball / stuffed mouse / feather on a stick. If we don’t praise her enough, she will keep “hunting”. And she’s picky - she needs to be told what a great hunter she is and that we’re proud of her. Good job doesn’t cut it. When she is in my room at night, she stays at the foot of my bed until I take off my glasses and take down my hair. That’s her cue that she can come get scritches.

The nights Lucy is in my room, she’ll curl up at the bottom of my bed until I pat the pillow. That is her cue to come curl up alongside me. She will bring me her leash, then go sit by the front door - just staring at me until I get moving. She is no where as needy and as expressive as Dot or Mayme, and she’s very quiet. When she does vocalize, we know something is not right.

Our cats know their names and come when called. But just the one called. If I summon Pixel, Caelan doesn’t move. They are also very expressive about food, litter boxes that aren’t up to their expectations of cleanliness and why crows shouldn’t be allowed in the lime tree.

I appreciate the responses, and there’s no doubt feline intelligence is underrated. But my hypothesis here is that because my cat ‘understands’ being startled and because I’ve scared her numerous times by being startled, that this why she announces herself.

It could be that she knows how I’m going to react and doesn’t want me to scare her, but that doesn’t make sense if she’s really anticipating my response. The only thing I can think of that does make sense is that it’s an attempt to diffuse my response - which btw, is absurdly and sadly predictable.

Cats are smart. She doesn’t want to get screamed at, so she <blerts> before she enters a room. Our cats don’t want to get rolled over on, so they sleep with their feet against our backs, where they can sense when we start to move and can extend the dissuaders if necessary.

Yes. But she waits for an answer. If I don’t answer, she goes away.

Yes, my cat understands everything I say to her. I only say things to her that directly concern her, and that’s part of why. “No making biscuits”, “sit beside me not on me”, “c’mere and get a belly rub”, “if you want to play then find a toy”.

She’s also sympathetic, which surprised me at first. Any time I’m sad or sick she’s right on it. When my belly hurts she lies against it and makes it feel better. She’s a smart kitty.

I once had a cat named Bubeleh. If she woke up in an empty room, she would get up and stand in the doorway and call out, over and over again. When we first got her, we didn’t understand this behavior, exactly, so we assumed she was doing what most animals do if there’s something “wrong”: call attention to it. So we would hear her and get up go check on her and the litter box and the food and the water and nothing was ever wrong. Bubeleh would stop meowing and just follow us to the living room or kitchen or whatever.

It would happen at night, too. We would go to bed and sometime later Bubeleh would be in another room, in the dark, meowing, so one of us would get up to see what was wrong. Invariably nothing was, and we’d return to bed with Bubeleh following close behind.

We finally figured out that she was trying to tell us something, and that she was in fact trying to tell us that something was wrong: she didn’t know where we were.

Once we figured that out, when we heard her “where is everyone?” meow we would just call out to her “we’re in the living room” or “come to bed, Bubeleh” or whatever and she would come to us, no problem. I have no idea why she didn’t just go looking for us, but she preferred to call out for some reason. /shrug

So, yes, your cat may very well be “announcing” herself so as not to offend your, um, delicate sensibilities, IMO. She may have worked it out in her tiny head that it was a better option than just waltzing into a room and startling you (and thus getting herself hollered at). Cats are cool like that.

Yes. that is what I thought at first too and why I started answering. But I’m home pretty much all of the time and I’m in a predictable number of places (3) well over 90% of the time. Plus, I know she can find me with no problem.

thanks. that was a great story.

No. My cat is an idiot.

I don’t know if my cat understands me. If so, she doesn’t act on it. It’s weird having a cat after years of dogsitting and raising Labradors. With dogs, if they’re doing something you don’t want them to do, you can make a disapproving noise or snap your finger at them or something to get them to desist. I tried all manner of gestures to get my cat off my kitchen hutch yesterday, and she just watched me blankly. I finally had to push her off. It would be nice if cats were a little more biddable.

Having said that, my cat has definitely trained me to understand her. She has her “I want to go outside on my leash” routine, her barky “my dinnertime is overdue” meow, the “dinner is not overdue but I want to be fed anyway” meow, the chirpy greeting meow, etc. I’m so well-trained I should be able to earn an obedience title or something.

No. If I tell the cat to move out of my way, she tries to trip me. If I tell her I have no food, she tries to trip me. If I tell her I’m allergic to cathair (and I am), she moves in closer.
But if I call her name, she’ll walk away.

No, she doesn’t understand me. She doesn’t choose to.

Last week Tonka was sitting on the ottoman when the SO drove up. He was looking the other way and didn’t see her. I said, ‘Is that mom?’ He whipped his head around and looked out the front window. Based on other instances, I believe he knows who ‘mom’ is/what ‘mom’ means.

One of our cats has all of these:

… plus other distinct sounds to indicate the following:

“I’m bored. Why is nobody paying attention to me? What the hell is wrong with you people?”

“Those nasty feral cats are outside the window again!”

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, I don’t feel so good. I’m gonna throw up in 3 … 2 … "

My cat will, on occasion, come when I call her.

Generally no, my cat doesn’t understand me. I’m pretty good at understanding her, though.

“Hey, welcome home. Come pet me. No, I don’t want to sit on your lap.”

“Hey, I see that you’re pooping. Now would be a good time for you to hold me, right?”

“Is it bedtime? Let me come curl up next to you so that I can complain that I want to be let out of the bedroom right as you’re falling asleep.”

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but she’ll come if I speak cat. I started trying to imitate them (there used to be a male also - moment of silence . . . ). I seem to be good enough that the neighborhood toms will pay attention to me when I try it on them. I’m not sure the look I get could be called puzzlement but they will definitely stop and stare for a fair while even after just a couple, ummm ‘vocalizations.’

And that’s how I normally answer her. However it does strain my voice a little and recently I tried using that typical pet-owner sing-songy voice sometime too. She’ll respond to that too, but it takes much longer and the odds of her coming in response to it are less than 50-50.

My cat understands what little I say to her. She almost always comes when I call her. Usually she will jump off of something if I tell her to get down (usually I have to start approaching her while firmly saying “Down!” though). If she’s on the floor and pat my lap a few times while looking at her, she’ll jump up on me.