Communication Styles

Sometimes, we need to get inventive to create a common language with our pets.


When I was a little girl, my dad brought me to a local animal shelter to adopt a kitten. The shelter worker reached into a cage full of kittens — how delightful! — and pulled out an especially tiny white kitten, who was literally lost in the crowd of furry playfulness.

I named the kitten Eddie, and he became my faithful companion for the next 19 years. At first, he seemed like a regular little guy, but my mother started noticing his lack of attention to the vacuum cleaner and other noisy things that would normally frighten a cat.

Was Eddie just abnormally brave, enjoying his weekly frolic atop the vacuum machine as it cleaned the carpeting? As we soon found out, the truth was that Eddie was completely deaf.

He had one blue eye, and one gold eye, and to me he was the most perfect creature I’d ever seen. To me, his deafness was just part of his charm and personality.

As we both grew, I learned ways to attract his attention when I wanted to play: Stomping hard on the floor was the most effective way to get him to come to me, regardless of what he was doing. If we were already in the same room and made eye contact, I would make a snapping motion with my hand and he’d be right at my feet.

And he was extremely adept at fetching! One of our favorite items to use was the tiny green house that came in my Monopoly game. He would play fetch with me (and actually deposit the little house into my outstretched hand) until he nearly collapsed with exhaustion, his pink nose a flaming magenta.

So this month’s article on sign language and cats (page 8) gave me a perfect reason to walk down memory lane. The things I taught Eddie were of a simplistic nature, and mostly along the lines of satisfying a little girl’s wishes when she wanted some feline playtime.

But I’m sure I could have taught Eddie more sophisticated behaviors had I actually put some effort into it. He was smart and willing, so he would have been the perfect partner for this sort of thing.

It will be fun to hear if our readers have any ‘signing’ success, too!

Elizabeth Vecsi
Executive Editor


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