Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cat Comprehension?

You are going to think I'm crazy for suggesting this, but every day I'm becoming more and more convinced that my cat understands English.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that when I ask him a direct question about what he wants, he will meow and answer me, and then proceed to the place in the house I asked him about. For example, if I ask "should we go to bed now?" he will get up and head upstairs, beating us to bed.

But I now have what I believe is overwhelming evidence that he understands what I am saying. It's a bit of a long story, so bear with me.

We live in a row of attached townhouses, and ours is smack-dab in the middle. We have a back yard that is about the same size as our living room, and though it is fenced, our side fences adjoin that of the neighbours. Both of our neighbours on either side of us expressed displeasure with our two cats when we first moved in, so I bought harnesses and 20 foot ropes with hooks on the end which I tied to the back fence of our yard. That way, the cats could play in our yard, or play in the grass on the other side of our fence, but the rope was not long enough for them to get into our neighbour's yards. Cats got to go out, neighbours were not bothered, everyone was happy.

That is, until about two weeks ago, when Mr. Cat somehow managed to get out of his harness and go on the prowl. I found him just down the road, in a vacant lot next to the RCMP detachment and dangerously close to Highway 2, having the time of his life. Rolling in the grass, chasing butterflies, and running wind sprints like he'd been caged for years and was finally set free. I picked him up, purring and happy, and brought him back to our yard.

He always used to cry to be let out, but once outside on his harness he was perfectly content. But for about two weeks after he broke free, he would cry even after I put him outside. He would go on the other side of the fence, pull at the rope and harness as hard as he could, all the while yelling and yelling and yelling and yelling at me to let him go.

So, this past weekend, when he yelled for so long that my neighbour came over to find out if he was dying, I hauled him inside, sat him down on my lap, looked into his eyes and asked: "Would you be a happier kitty if I took you back to my parents farm? You could run around outside all day and all night and never have to be couped up inside ever again?"

He just looked back at me, cocked his head to the side and made a funny little half-meow, then curled up in my lap. He NEVER curls up in my lap. Then, that night, he cuddled up right next to me to sleep, kind of like he was my teddy bear. He almost never does that. And he hasn't yelled to be set free once since. He hasn't tried to get away at all, and he follows me around the house, everywhere I go, as if to say: "I love you food lady - I don't want to go!"

Now, I'm not saying that he necessarily understood me, but boy, is that a strange coincidence, or what?

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