Speaking in Cat

This one really does belong here.

It’s said that our pets don’t have a language because they don’t have a “syntax,” defined by Webster as “the way in which linguistic elements (such as words) are put together to form constituents (such as phrases or clauses).” For decades, my favorite thing to wonder has been, do we have a too-limited definition of syntax?

If an animal doesn’t have a perception of itself as separate from the world, it seems to follow that the time of day, weather, temperature, air pressure, and windspeed are also part of the animal’s language. The vocalized “M’row” is just an accent, a counterpoint, to this surrounding language. “M’row’s” more about what it sets off, than a definition. Our pets assume we’re using this wraparound language, too. I feel this is our interspecies disconnect.

We humans are blunted by our height above the ground; by our clothing, blankets, and air conditioning. Our lives are lived in houses and transportation; largely, in argument with the surrounding world. Animals are barefoot to it. So, (my thought goes) of course, this informs their language.

“The Two Talking Cats” is an astonishing exception to language-as-counterpoint, as its 100-million+ views attests. Even their owner, ID’d on YouTube as TheCatsPyjaaaamas, says this cat chat was unusual behavior for “Stina” and “Mossy.” It’s far more common that animals communicate stacatto, as this Reddit post by u/Resident_Code3062 illustrates.

I wonder if we don’t know what we don’t know regarding our little pets.

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