The key to successful communication with your cat is consistency. Cats believe they are their own masters so talking to your feline friend is more like having a conversation than giving orders.
When it comes to communicating with your cat, the words are less important than how you vocalise them and your body language at that time. Don’t use the same tone for ‘down’ and ‘no’ as you use for giving a treat. The cat will get confused and might misinterpret your language. Also, cats aren’t as immediate in their response as dogs. Their reactions are slow and languid.
Follow these guidelines to really understand what your cat is implying:
- To praise your pet, use a high pitched and happy voice and beckon with one hand.
- To correct behaviour, use a loud, firm, authoritative voice. Your body language should mirror your tone. For example, when ordering your cat to ‘sit down,’ use one of your hands to point down.
- If your cat is distracting you while you work at the laptop, give a firm, but gentle ‘no’, and push the cat away without showing affection. Since cats don’t believe in giving space to humans, you may have to do this several times. Another option is to a sharp hissing sound when they are doing something nasty.
If you consistently use the same voice, facial expressions and hand gestures, most cats will have no trouble understanding what you say. The more you communicate with your cat, the better the two of you will become at understanding each other.
(A version of this piece was first published in Bombay Times)
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